Re: Aktionsart vs. Aspect

From: Mike Adams (
Date: Fri May 02 1997 - 13:13:03 EDT

> What is the difference between Aktionsart and Aspect. I really don't
> know what either of them are to begin with, though I remember seeing the
> term Aktionsart in my 2nd year Greek book.
> Thanks!!
> Jeramy Townsley
> Indiana University

I'm surprised not to see any responses (pehaps I've overlooked, or someone
has responded off line) Anyhow, I'll give it a try.

In analyzing Greek, one notes the form of verbs take and categorizes these
verbs by "tense". In English tense relates primarily to time: past, present
and future. Defined as tense alone, aorist, for instance would be seen as a
simple past.

Greek tenses depict more than time. Therefore we borrow from the Germans
the term "Aktionsart", which signifies type of action, continuous,
repetitive, punticiliar or perfective. This concept is often diagrammed on
a time line with action depicted by dots, lines, repeated dots, or a
combination of dots and lines. The general description of an aorist would
be a dot, somewhere in the past on the time line, (with cautions not to
take the punctiliar definition too literally.)

Aspect means "view". Aspect takes into account time and type of action as
elements in a verb. It also considers the fact that discourse proceeds from
a writer's viewpoint to communicate a the writer is choosing
to describe the action, (rather than merely how or when did the action
occur.) An aorist indicative, then would be the tense chosen by the writer
to best express the overall concept he/she wished to convey. It may indeed
indicate a punctiliar action in the past time or a linear or repeated
action culminated in the past. Perhaps Greek writers employed the aorist to
represent action occuring in the present. This has been a matter of great
debate in B-Greek.

We all, presumably, seek to find out what a writer meant by what he said.
Obviously that's not an easy task. Sometimes new criteria are required to
explain phenomena that defy existent definitions, but new categories are
just as likely to confuse as to enlighten. Such is life.....

Hope this helps. (Hope I'm not too far off in my explanation.)

Ellen Adams

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