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Teaching Aspect and Aktionsart

Posted: June 15th, 2011, 6:15 am
by Peter Streitenberger
Dear B-Greek-Friends,

what is the best way to make the difference between "Verbal Aspect" and "Aktionsart" for my students clear? I'm looking for a good example or something like that.
Thank you !
Peter, Germany

Re: Teaching Aspect and Aktionsart

Posted: June 15th, 2011, 11:05 am
by MAubrey
What year are your students?

Re: Teaching Aspect and Aktionsart

Posted: June 15th, 2011, 12:09 pm
by Peter Streitenberger
Dear Mike,
it's a first grade seminary, but interested students want to learn and know more - "beyond the basics" so to say. That's why I needed a quite simple example or explanation. I have different concepts in my mind, but want them to hear the "communis opinio".
Nice to hear from you !
Peter, Germany

Re: Teaching Aspect and Aktionsart

Posted: June 15th, 2011, 1:10 pm
by MAubrey
Are you teaching in German or in English?

One of the problems is that historically, aktionsart simply meant aspect. The two terms are virtually interchangeable in the old grammars. And to that extent, its less helpful to use them both in the classroom. In terms of the modern distinction, the easiest way to show it would be to do something like this:

I go/went (perfective) vs. I am/was going (imperfective)

take (non-telic) vs. take off (telic)
bring vs. bring up
follow vs. follow up
knock vs. knock down

If you're teaching in German, it shouldn't be hard to find parallel examples. Using prepositions/adverbs in conjunction with other verbs is quite common for Indo-European languages.

In Greek:

ἔρχομαι (imperfective) vs. ἦλθον (perfective)

ἔρχομαι (non-telic) vs. εἰσέρχομαι (telic)
ἦλθον vs. εἰσῆλθον

Of course, Aktionsart gets far more complicated than this. In Linguistic jargon: the English non-telics are all Activities (knock is probably better labeled a semelfactive). The English telics above are all causative accomplishments. But for simply showing the distinction between the two, this is basically it.

Here's a professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada's summary of aktionsart (a lot of more recent linguistic work prefers to use the term "event classes" or "predicate classes": Event Classes.

Note: in undergraduate linguistics programs this stuff normally isn't touched on until the third or fourth year.

Re: Teaching Aspect and Aktionsart

Posted: June 16th, 2011, 6:06 am
by Peter Streitenberger
Dear Mike,

thank you indeed for the interesting examples. I'm teaching in German, but I have to give english examples to make this clear (e.g. John was reading, when I entered), as German has not a aspect system at all. We do this using adverbs.

Thank you for this link, Mike ! I'll read the page after I finished here. The problem is that German scholars do not have a common view on aspect and Aktionsart and they use the terms very differently.
The best way to differentiate between both terms seems to me, that Aspect is the kind of view on an action as either perfective (aorist) or imperfective (present, imperfect), Aktionsart is a feature that has be determined from context and the semantics of the verb (ingressive, iterative and so on).

Hope to hear from you !