Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.

Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 15th, 2012, 10:59 am

RickBrannan wrote:Thanks for the interaction. First, realize I zapped off my first response in a spare two minutes (literally) before I left the office yesterday because I knew if I didn't do it then, I wouldn't do it.


I know the feeling, which is why I wanted some response or else the topic might die on the vine.

RickBrannan wrote:The reference list from 1Clem probably has some bad examples (results from a hasty search), and I didn't check over all the refs. My primary reason for responding regarding οραω was due to my experience with the verb in the Apostolic Fathers, where it functions somewhat like we use the word "see" in the sense of "understand".


OK. BDAG has a subsection of this verb with the meaning "perceive" and many of the same citations, including your quoted 1 Clem 4.7. I'm inclined to view this sense as an activity rather than a state.

RickBrannan wrote:Formally, I know little to nothing about lexical aspect. This was one of those "wait, οραω is used differently than to literally see" moments while trying to understand Jonathan's post. Does anyone have a short definition/explanation of lexical aspect (all these 'aspects' are giving me headaches) to share so I can more fully grok the goal of the list/categorization you propose?


Well, lexical aspect or Aktionsart has to do with the kind of action expressed by the verb (or the predicate). There are different understandings of it. A common understanding is to express the lexical aspect in terms of the Vendler categories, which is what Jonathan is doing. In other words, the goal of the categorization into states, activitivies, accomplishments, and achievements is really an attempt to characterize the lexical aspect.

The Vendler categories are not the only way to express lexical aspect, but they're a common approach. I don't want to put words into Jonathan's mouth, but it seems that he wants to give this approach a shot and see how it works with the "facts upon the ground." In this case, your objection is as to meaning of ὁράω that it sometimes doesn't mean "see" is an appropriate and appreciated response.

RickBrannan wrote:Given the other projects I've got going in the next 3-6 months, I'm going to have to be a follower on these threads. To help me and others, could we try to define basic terms (maybe even a 'terminology' or 'glossary' subforum somewhere?) used by the threads that tend toward the more linguistic side of the discussion?


ὁρῶ. ;-)
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 15th, 2012, 11:04 am

MAubrey wrote:The thing is that I don't think οράω should be an activity at all.


Well, what do you think it is?

MAubrey wrote:If you're going to do this project the first thing you're going to want to do is gather a collection of adverbs for testing collocation. I would anticipate that οράω does not collocate with adverbs like "vigorously" or "quickly" and thus cannot be an activity.


I think the idea of what Jonathan is doing is to churn the waters and get people to propose / debate / dispute the methodology and tests. So, is your test for an activity collocation with adverbs like "vigorously" or "quickly"? Is this test described in the literature?

(I'm also not sure if the state-activity distinction is as important for Greek as it is for English.)
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 15th, 2012, 11:18 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:I think the idea of what Jonathan is doing is to churn the waters and get people to propose / debate / dispute the methodology and tests.


That's exactly what I'm doing. I make no claim to expertise in this area.

Stephen Carlson wrote:
MAubrey wrote:If you're going to do this project the first thing you're going to want to do is gather a collection of adverbs for testing collocation. I would anticipate that οράω does not collocate with adverbs like "vigorously" or "quickly" and thus cannot be an activity.

!!! SNIP !!!
So, is your test for an activity collocation with adverbs like "vigorously" or "quickly"? Is this test described in the literature?


And is there a list of adverbs that you would suggest? Or do we have to develop these as well?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby RickBrannan » June 15th, 2012, 5:57 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Well, lexical aspect or Aktionsart has to do with the kind of action expressed by the verb (or the predicate).


Oh, Aktionsart. Why didn't someone say so?
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Alex Hopkins » June 16th, 2012, 8:50 am

I've not had time to contribute over the last week or so but have been listening as time has permitted. The following notes are those of an interested layman.

Jonathan asked,

"Is there a list of adverbs that you would suggest? Or do we have to develop these as well?"


Fanning's quoting Verkuyl is relevant (p47).

Verkuyl made observations about the effect of durational or non-durational adverb-phrases (e.g. 'for hours', ' until 1965', ' yesterday', 'at that time', 'in a moment') and about the effect of specified quantity vs. unspecified quantity in the object- or subject-phrases used with the verb ('to play cello music', 'to play a cello concerto', 'to deliver a letter', 'to deliver letters'). ... It is also true that certain phrases do not occur with some aspects due to the unnatural collocation of elements which would be produced. For example, one does not usually say 'I delivered a letter for hours', but it makes good sense to say 'I delivered letters for hours', since the object-references relate differently with a durational phrase. However, durationals are compatible with some objects of specified quantity (e.g. 'I kicked a ball for hours'), if an iterative meaning is possible.


So adverbial phrases of time would be one good candidate for inclusion in such a project, ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς, but this has its difficulties since it's not just the verb that may be polysemous but the adverbial phrases. (E.g. ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς may mean 'from the beginning' but also 'at the beginning'.) Additionally, the lexical aspect of the verb may be altered by the noun.

Fanning then talks of 'count-' vs. 'mass'- nouns and their inter-relationship with aspect (pp47-48). Although it's not relevant to the matter of drawing up a list of adverbs, it has some bearing on cataloging verbs according to their lexical aspect.

"Some nouns are 'countable' and do not normally accord well with durationals, unless an iterative idea is in view ('she played the concerto all day'). Other nouns are 'mass'-terms, which are not counted and do not occur as plurals, except in some different sense of the word ... Mass-nouns fit quite easily with durationals ('she played music all day'), but do not fit well with expressions of accomplishment or termination (cf. ' we drank [a bottle of] wine at lunch'; without the count-phrase added, the mass-noun cancels out any sense of completion or accomplishment)."


(Here, too, there are difficulties, because there isn't a one-to-one mapping of English / Greek mass and count nouns. Consider 'flesh' vs. σάρξ, see e.g. Rev 19:18).

Earlier in the conversation Jonathan gave a listing of verbs under three headings, states, activities, and accomplishments and achievements. It may be of interest that
"Without reference to Vendler's work, Kenny set forth a similar taxonomy of verbs in three main classes, putting accomplishments and achievements together in one class, which he called 'performances', but maintaining similar classes of activities and states."


(Fanning, p45; I've not seen Kenny's work.)

Finally, list-members following the conversation may know that Vendler's original article is comparatively easy to obtain through JSTOR: Zeno Vendler, 'Verbs and Times', Philosophical Review, 66 (1957) pp143-160. (And for those in my own home town, JSTOR is accessible through a membership of the State Library of Victoria, so it isn't restricted to academic circles.)

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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 17th, 2012, 7:26 am

Alex Hopkins wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:Is there a list of adverbs that you would suggest? Or do we have to develop these as well?


Fanning's quoting Verkuyl is relevant (p47).

Verkuyl made observations about the effect of durational or non-durational adverb-phrases (e.g. 'for hours', ' until 1965', ' yesterday', 'at that time', 'in a moment') and about the effect of specified quantity vs. unspecified quantity in the object- or subject-phrases used with the verb ('to play cello music', 'to play a cello concerto', 'to deliver a letter', 'to deliver letters'). ... It is also true that certain phrases do not occur with some aspects due to the unnatural collocation of elements which would be produced. For example, one does not usually say 'I delivered a letter for hours', but it makes good sense to say 'I delivered letters for hours', since the object-references relate differently with a durational phrase. However, durationals are compatible with some objects of specified quantity (e.g. 'I kicked a ball for hours'), if an iterative meaning is possible.


So adverbial phrases of time would be one good candidate for inclusion in such a project, ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς, but this has its difficulties since it's not just the verb that may be polysemous but the adverbial phrases. (E.g. ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς may mean 'from the beginning' but also 'at the beginning'.) Additionally, the lexical aspect of the verb may be altered by the noun.


A little background for my question - once upon a time, I read Mari Broman Olsen's thesis and went searching for phrases involving adverbial phrases of time like νῦν. I didn't find enough examples to be very helpful, possibly because I was using only the New Testament corpus, but I think this might be hard to do for all verbs using even a much larger corpus. And some of them were ambigious in just the way you suggest. I got stuck because I just couldn't find good tests for most verbs I was trying to categorize.

So I suspect that it may be hard to categorize all the verbs in the New Testament using this technique.

Bringing in count vs. mass nouns may help a little, but probably not all that much. I suspect if we want a complete list, we may need to use our intuition for many verbs. I just sent Stephen a list that gives my intuition for most verbs, I'll post it once he has sanity checked it.

These other techniques and others will be very helpful for correcting this list, but I'm very much wanting to start by proposing a plausible list and improving it on the basis of evidence. One thing I will add to my list is a "confidence" field that says how sure we think we are that we really know the lexical aspect of a verb.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby RandallButh » June 18th, 2012, 3:20 am

Jonathan wrote:
A little background for my question - once upon a time, I read Mari Broman Olsen's thesis and went searching for phrases involving adverbial phrases of time like νῦν. I didn't find enough examples to be very helpful, possibly because I was using only the New Testament corpus, but I think this might be hard to do for all verbs using even a much larger corpus.


As Stephen wrote about Matt 15 ἦλθεν παρά lexical aspect may be difficult to determine. In part this is because of potentially ambiguous layerings and parsings within Kimmo's model.

On a simpler note, one adverb has been very helpful on grammatical aspect. αὔριον seems to be blocked from immediate clauses of aorist indicatives, almost as if their "remote aspect" :?: was sensitive to time. :shock: (PS: this is true for Hebrew, too, though it is not as aspectual a language as Greek.) When this is admitted as a consensus among NT practioners, then NT scholarship will be able to better deal with questions like this interaction of lexical aspect in varying contexts, the proper perspectives on discourse structure and prominence, the lexical aspectual restrictions for historical presents, and even best ways for learning and internalizing the language (the last item was for Mike :) ).
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Jonathan Robie » June 19th, 2012, 3:30 pm

Stephen Carlson and I took a quick look at the verbs in the Wiktionary Concordance (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Concordance:New_Testament_Greek#Verbs) and attempted to assign them to Vendler Classes intuitively.

acac = achievement or accomplishment. We found it difficult in many cases to distinguish the two, and didn't like the name 'performances'. Still looking for a better name or a cleaner distinction.

How can this be improved?

vendler greek.pdf
(124.2 KiB) Downloaded 37 times


(For those of you who get the email feed or an RSS feed, I don't know if you can see the PDF attachment or not. If you don't see it, click on the link to the post in the forum.)
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Louis L Sorenson » June 19th, 2012, 4:50 pm

Where would φθάνω fit in? State or Activity? Is attaining a state? Is there always an either/or choice?

φθάνω 1 aor. ἔφθασα; pf. 3 sg. ἔφθακεν SSol 2:12. (Hom.+) prim. ‘come or do someth. first or before someone’.
① to be beforehand in moving to a position, come before, precede (exx. fr. the later period, incl. ins and pap, in Clark [s. below] 375f) w. acc. of the pers. whom one precedes (Diod S 15, 61, 4 τοὺς πολεμίους; Appian, Syr. 29 §142, Bell. Civ. 5, 30 §115; SIG 783, 35 [27 B.C.] φθάνοντες ἀλλήλους; Wsd 6:13; Jos., Ant. 7, 247) ἡμεῖς οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας we will by no means precede those who have fallen asleep 1 Th 4:15.
② to get to or reach a position, have just arrived, then simply arrive, reach (late and Mod. Gk.: Plut., Mor. 210e; 338a; Vett. Val. 137, 35; 174, 12 ἐπὶ ποῖον [ἀστέρα]; Herm. Wr. 9, 10; PParis 18, 14 [II A.D.] φθάσομεν εἰς Πελούσιον; PGM 3, 590; LXX [cp. Thackeray p. 288f]; TestAbr A 1 p. 77, 9 [Stone p. 2]; TestAbr B 2 p. 107, 3 al. [St. p. 62]; TestReub 5:7; TestNapht 6:9 ἐπὶ τ. γῆς [v.l. ἐπὶ τ. γῆν]; JosAs 26:5 AB; Philo, Op. M. 5, Leg. All. 3, 215 φθάσαι μέχρι θεοῦ, Conf. Lingu. 153, Mos. 1, 2.—JVogeser, Zur Sprache der griech. Heiligenlegenden, diss. Munich 1907, 46; JWittmann, Sprachl. Untersuchungen zu Cosmas Indicopleustes, diss. Munich 1913, 16) ἐπί τινα come upon someone, overtake perh. w. a suggestion of success (in an adverse sense, DDaube, The Sudden in Scripture, ’64, 35f). ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ Mt 12:28; Lk 11:20 (KClark, JBL 59, ’40, 367–83 ἐγγίζειν and φθ.; HMartin, ET 52, ’40/41, 270–75). ἔφθασεν ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργή 1 Th 2:16 (cp. Eccl 8:14a v.l.; TestLevi 6:11). ἄχρι ὑμῶν ἐφθάσαμεν 2 Cor 10:14 (SAndrews, SBLSP 36, ’97, 479 n. 30: perh. an allusion to the military award ‘corona militaris’).
③ to come to or arrive at a particular state, attain φθ. εἴς τι come up to, reach, attain someth. (BGU 522, 6) Ro 9:31; Phil 3:16.—B. 701f; 703. DELG. M-M. TW. Sv.



Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (1053). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Re: Verb catalog - lexical aspect

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 19th, 2012, 5:07 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Where would φθάνω fit in? State or Activity? Is attaining a state? Is there always an either/or choice?


Attaining something is telic (reaching a state), so φθάνω should be classed as an achievement (assuming other arguments in the predicate don't override its basic Aktionsart). Plus, the combination of a second aorist form and a nasal characterized present stem is a good clue that the verb was telic at least in Pre-Greek.

I don't think it's necessarily an either/or choice, and it's still an open question in my mind to what extend we can get away with the notion of a basic Aktionart / situation type for each verb coupled with regular reinterpretations based on mismatches in (viewpoint) aspect, duration, and definiteness of arguments.
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