From: Mari Broman Olsen (molsen@umiacs.umd.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 17 1997 - 09:57:22 EST

Rolf, and others, follow on his comment that durativity and
punctilarity are the most important parts of Aktionsart. I would add
telicity, or "boundedness", a lexical aspect feature that
distinguishes verbs like win and destroy (bounded, +telic) from verbs
like pray and run (not inherently bounded or telic, although they may
be made telic in certain sentential and pragmatic contexts, such as
'pray a prayer' and 'run a race/mile'). Curiously it is telicity that
figures most strongly in the interface between syntax and semantics
cross linguistically. Angeliek van Hout, for example, has shown that
all telic verbs in Dutch are transitive (though the reverse does not
hold). She further demonstrates that an inference of boundedness is a
significant way for children to 'bootstrap' into language learning:
they assume transitivity and boundedness go together.

The link is somewhat looser in English, but it seems to be governed by
other factors we know to be related to transitivity (cf. Hopper and
Thompson's article in Language 1980), such as agentivity, causation
and object affectedness.

Incidentally, the link between transitivity and boundedness is also
related to the middle in some languages (dunno about Greek: perhaps
part of my next process): some middles seem to be restriced to things
that can be bounded, cf. the English middle-type construction, X Verbs

This bread cuts easily. (bounded, okay)
This letter reads easily. (bounded, okay)
English writes easily (not bounded, not okay)

Mari Broman Olsen
Research Associate

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
3141 A.V. Williams Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

(301) 405-6754 FAX: (301) 314-9658


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