Bounded and Unbounded ACTIONS in Fanning

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Jake Horner
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Bounded and Unbounded ACTIONS in Fanning

Post by Jake Horner » August 1st, 2011, 9:38 am

I've been working my way through Fanning's "Verbal Aspect" for a bit of light reading this summer and have a question about bounded and unbounded ACTIONS (p143).

At least in English the use of articles and singular/plural make a difference, e.g.:

I am driving (ie. hammering) nails. (unbounded)
I am driving the nail. (bounded)
I am driving a nail. (bounded, but possibly iterative, and therefore denoting a generally unbounded activity ??? )

Here we have the same verb in the same tense/voice/mood yet (potentially) three different aspectual senses.

Am I putting too fine a point of this, or missing the point entirely?

Jake Horner
MDiv candidate at PTS
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MAubrey
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Re: Bounded and Unbounded ACTIONS in Fanning

Post by MAubrey » August 1st, 2011, 4:14 pm

Well the simplest answer is that the interaction of aspect and aktionsart in one language is different than the interaction of aspect and aktionsart in other languages. The challenge of books like Fanning (and this applies to most books on the grammar of other languages generally) is that they rarely discuss the same phenomenon in a comparative sense. They talk about Greek, but if you don't understand the same framework with reference to English, it's going to be more difficult to grasp.

The best I could recommend would be to try to interlibrary loan Carlotta Smith's book The parameter of aspect. She uses the same basic system that Fanning does (Vendler's) and discusses it broadly and then applies it to several different langauges, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, and Navajo. If I had it near me (I'm out for coffee), I'd try to dig out something more for you, but that's a start. A more financially affordable alternative would be a book by a good friend of mine: The structure of language: An introduction to grammatical analysis by Emma Pavey. The paperback is $33, but you can get a Kindle version for $18.

When I get home, I'll see if I can find something in Smith's book that's relevant...
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Mike Aubrey, Linguist
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KimmoHuovila
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Re: Bounded and Unbounded ACTIONS in Fanning

Post by KimmoHuovila » August 2nd, 2011, 6:04 am

Jake,

We are dealing with aspectual nesting here. Fanning deals with the same using Aktionsart for the inner layer and aspect for the outer layer. However, he does not have good theoretical tools to deal with more than two layers, though he seems at times to be aware of the problem.

Let me illustrate nesting using your sentences.

(1) I am driving nails.
In (1) the innermost layer is unbounded, to drive. To this is added a bounded layer, to drive a nail. This is bounded as there is a terminal point to be reached, and that is within the scope of predication. However, this bounded expression is opened again by iteration as expressed by the plural. You drive one nail after another. Thus the sum expression is unbounded, and this is coded by the progressive.

(2) I am driving the nail.
In (2) you have a similar structure than in (1). The expression as a whole is unbounded. The verb is progressive. However, there is a difference in the way the outermost layer is opened. It is not opened by iteration as in (1), but by NOT viewing the end of the action.
Sentences (1) and (2) illustrate the two common ways an expression is opened (unbounded): by iteration or by excluding the end point from view.

(3) I am driving a nail.
Sentence (3) can be understood as unbounded 'drive' => bounded 'drive a nail' => unbounded 'be driving a nail' in a similar manner as sentence (2). The opening of this middle, bounded expression is done by excluding the end from view.
Alternatively you can open the middle, bounded expression by iterating it. However, the singular may favor you not taking another nail.

I hope this helps.

Kimmo Huovila
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Kimmo Huovila

MAubrey
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Re: Bounded and Unbounded ACTIONS in Fanning

Post by MAubrey » August 7th, 2011, 12:09 am

Jake,

Listen to Kimmo.
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Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

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