Aspect and Aktionsart

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dmarino
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Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by dmarino » July 12th, 2015, 4:22 pm

So, I have a grammar that defines aspect as, "the way we describe the action of the verb." Going on the grammar speaks about two types of aspect; simple and continuous. This confused me because I thought aspect had more to do with the "viewpoint" of the action by the author wether perfective or imperfective and the type of action being defined as aktionsart. Aspect being a semantic feature and aktionsart being a pragmatic effect. Does anyone have insight in how to understand and define aspect and distinguish it from aktionsart?
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » July 12th, 2015, 6:55 pm

That's not a beginner question at all. See for example http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =11&t=2190 and http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =11&t=1487 and http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =11&t=1215 and http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... f=11&t=862

It's more difficult than it should be because the writers of Koine grammar aren't usually linguists. Everyone wants to define the terms differently. I suggest you read basic linguistic studies on verb to understand the difference between viewpoint aspect or whatever it's called and lexical aspect or whatever it's called. Details are just details but general ideas are important. Try to understand Vendler's categories. Then you can understand how different verbs have different lexical aspects (they belong to different aktionsart categories). Basically the semantic meaning of a lexeme, a verb, determines how we understand the situation or event described by that verb, or a verbal complex including that verb, happening in time. Try also to understand grammatical aspect.

"Aspect being a semantic feature and aktionsart being a pragmatic effect." That's commented on in one of the threads mentioned. Basically: aktionsart isn't a pragmatic effect.
Going on the grammar speaks about two types of aspect; simple and continuous. This confused me because I thought aspect had more to do with the "viewpoint" of the action by the author wether perfective or imperfective and the type of action being defined as aktionsart.
"Simple" and "continuous" are probably just synonyms for perfective and imperfective. Two grammatical aspects of Koine which can be also called viewpoint aspects. The present and imperfect tenses are imperfective, the aorist is perfective. Together with aktionsart the grammatical aspect determines the final outcome, how we understand the internal temporal structure of an event or situation expressed in the text/speech. That outcome is called "aktionsart" by Campbell, confusingly and contrary to standard linguistic jargon.
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dmarino
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by dmarino » July 14th, 2015, 2:30 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:That's not a beginner question at all.
Sorry about that. I consider myself a beginner and have been trying to wrap my mind around what distinguishes Greek from English and the many conversations about tense and aspect have kinda gotten me a little confused. Thank you for the links I will be sure to read them thoroughly. :D
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » July 14th, 2015, 4:56 pm

dmarino wrote:
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:That's not a beginner question at all.
Sorry about that. I consider myself a beginner and have been trying to wrap my mind around what distinguishes Greek from English and the many conversations about tense and aspect have kinda gotten me a little confused. Thank you for the links I will be sure to read them thoroughly. :D
No need to be sorry, I didn't mean you shouldn't have asked that in this subforum. Just that the subject matter is quite advanced. Another thread you could read is going on at the moment, http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =31&t=3182. Much of it is advanced material, but you can always find something new you can understand.
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by Paul-Nitz » July 16th, 2015, 12:52 pm


Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: I suggest you read basic linguistic studies on verb to understand the difference between viewpoint aspect or whatever it's called and lexical aspect or whatever it's called... Try also to understand grammatical aspect.


I think I finally understand. But I would appreciate Eeli (or others) checking my understanding. Please comment:

IS IT TRUE
  • that there are three basic "quality of action" issues that are typically considered:

    • lexical aspect -- The quality of action that is embedded in the meaning of a particular verb, e.g. that ερχ root has an imperfective idea within itself and that ελθ has a perfective idea. Buth's example from a 2013 post now makes sense to me. In it he gives an example from English, "Swim" is inherently and lexically more durative than "hit."!

      grammatical aspect -- The changeable tense-form of a verb, e.g. εγραφον is imperfective, εγραψα is perfective.

      oveall / end result aspect - The "pragmatic" effect, in linguistics' terms. This is the view of the quality of the action that the author/speaker intends to convey by what he has said, taking into account the lexical aspect, grammatical aspect, and the context
IS IT TRUE
  • that the older grammarians (Robertson, et al.) used Aktionsart as a term equivalent to "grammatical aspect."

    that the modern grammarians in Biblical Greek scholarship (Porter, Decker, Fanning, et al.) use the term Aktionsart in a various, and sometimes conflicting, ways, and

    that the modern linguists and some linguistically minded voices in Biblical Greek scholarship (Aubrey) have one unified understanding of Aktionsart, namely that Aktionsart is "lexical aspect" (as defined above).
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » July 16th, 2015, 5:30 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: I suggest you read basic linguistic studies on verb to understand the difference between viewpoint aspect or whatever it's called and lexical aspect or whatever it's called... Try also to understand grammatical aspect.
I think I finally understand. But I would appreciate Eeli (or others) checking my understanding. Please comment:
IANAL (I am not a linguist) so I can only tell how I understand this, with no guarantees.
IS IT TRUE
that there are three basic "quality of action" issues that are typically considered:

lexical aspect -- The quality of action that is embedded in the meaning of a particular verb, e.g. that ερχ root has an imperfective idea within itself and that ελθ has a perfective idea. Buth's example from a 2013 post now makes sense to me. In it he gives an example from English, "Swim" is inherently and lexically more durative than "hit."!
ερχ and ελθ are different roots for one word. Yes, they have those two ideas, but it's not lexical aspect. It's grammatical/viewpoint aspect, or as is usually called in our discussions, just aspect. Lexical aspect is e.g. ερχομαι vs. περιπατεω, or rather their meanings "move from one place to another" and "walk about". The latter, "walk about", is durative, as "swim". The idea of walking about in itself doesn't include ideas of beginning or end which would be different than the middle. "Coming" or "going", on the contrary, do include them. You necessarily come/go from somewhere to somewhere, and the situation after that is different than before, and each point of the middle of the action is different because the one who does it is closer to the endpoint each moment.

Here we come to the distinction between linguistic understanding and real world. In real world almost every action, event or situation has a beginning and an end. But not in the world of language. Lexemes have different properties in that respect and they are reflected in semantics of verbal complexes. "I walked about for two hours two times last week" is a verbal complex. It's normal English. But you can't say "I went there for two hours two times last week " as easily. There must be something in the lexemes which makes the latter sentence less natural than the former. And that something is lexical aspect, or aktionsart.
grammatical aspect -- The changeable tense-form of a verb, e.g. εγραφον is imperfective, εγραψα is perfective.
Viewpoint aspect is more general idea than a form of a verb. Aspect can be expressed in different ways in different languages. In Koine it's express in so called tense. The same set of forms in Koine express both linguistic tense (the time/moment in timeline, relative to some other time) and linguistic aspect (the internal constituency of a situation in time, or lack of it, but independent from other moments). More specifically linguistic tense is expressed in indicative mood and aspect in all moods. Some want to speak about tense-forms instead of just tense in Koine because technically speaking tense in linguistics - or the idea of word "tense" in grammars in general - and tense in Koine grammar aren't the same thing.
oveall / end result aspect - The "pragmatic" effect, in linguistics' terms. This is the view of the quality of the action that the author/speaker intends to convey by what he has said, taking into account the lexical aspect, grammatical aspect, and the context
Semantic+semantic doesn't make pragmatic. I think Campbell uses that word - IIRC - , and Aktionsart, of the end result, but against the general linguistic terminology. (I should check if he uses "pragmatic" that way.)
IS IT TRUE
that the older grammarians (Robertson, et al.) used Aktionsart as a term equivalent to "grammatical aspect."

Unfortunately it's more complicated than that. I believe knowing history of linguistic terminology may be the key to understanding Robertson, but I wouldn't say that of other older grammarians. Aktionsart got an independent life within Koine scholarship. Anyways, the idea of grammatical aspect wasn't the same then as it's now, and Aktionsart didn't mean what grammatical aspect means now. I have read Robertson's description but it's difficult to say what he actually means. Probably it's even more difficult exactly because we know more now about the nature of verb, linguistically speaking, than they did back then.
that the modern grammarians in Biblical Greek scholarship (Porter, Decker, Fanning, et al.) use the term Aktionsart in a various, and sometimes conflicting, ways, and
Might be. Someone who has read them all first hand should comment that. For example Fanning and later Campbell make good use of the idea of Aktionsart (lexical aspect), but as I have said, Campbell sadly reuses the terminology in a confusing way. Porter, as I remember having read somewhere second hand, downplays the idea of lexical aspect.
that the modern linguists and some linguistically minded voices in Biblical Greek scholarship (Aubrey) have one unified understanding of Aktionsart, namely that Aktionsart is "lexical aspect" (as defined above).
In a thread about Aktionsart - was it one of the linked threads above? - some people, e.g. Aubrey, were willing to put away the term Aktionsart completely. But yes, everyone who has read basics of linguistics knows what Aktionsart is in linguistics, and it's lexical aspect or something roughly equivalent (the details may depend on who you ask).

Finally I have to say that there's no term in linguistics which isn't defined in many more than two ways, and no idea which hasn't been named in many more than two ways. Ideas evolve. For example, many linguists (including Aubrey) say that "lexical aspect" isn't a good name because that isn't actually a property of verb but property of verbal complex. What is really needed is not knowing the terminology and definitions by heart, but basic understanding of basic ideas behind the terms. Then you can possibly better understand how Koine works and why. Taking part in deep discussions of course necessitate exact terminology and definitions, but it doesn't necessarily help you to understand and know the language.
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cwconrad
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Re: Aspect and Aktionsart

Post by cwconrad » July 16th, 2015, 7:27 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:Finally I have to say that there's no term in linguistics which isn't defined in many more than two ways, and no idea which hasn't been named in many more than two ways. Ideas evolve. For example, many linguists (including Aubrey) say that "lexical aspect" isn't a good name because that isn't actually a property of verb but property of verbal complex. What is really needed is not knowing the terminology and definitions by heart, but basic understanding of basic ideas behind the terms. Then you can possibly better understand how Koine works and why. Taking part in deep discussions of course necessitate exact terminology and definitions, but it doesn't necessarily help you to understand and know the language.
I'm one of those thoroughly enjoying reading the newly-released sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's Go, Set a Watchman. Part of the fascination is knowing that this sequel was written prior to the prequel. This little snippet describing a sermon at a summer revival has nothing to do, of course, with what Eeli has written above, but there's a kindred tone to the two statements:
Harper Lee, [i]Go, Set a Watchman[/i] wrote:[Reverend Moorehead] split hairs for three-quarters of an hour on the grammatical accuracy of his text (Which was correct—the wages of sin is death or the wages of sin are death? It made a difference, and the Reverend Moorehead drew distinctions of such profundity that not even Atticus Finch could tell what he was driving at.)
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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