Re: Aktionsart vs. Aspect

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Sat May 03 1997 - 20:40:11 EDT

There is one interesting question that hasn't been addressed: are Aktionsart
and aspect two different things, or two different descriptions of the same
thing? Aktionsart is an older term. Some linguists say the two terms are the
same, others make some distinction.

According to Robertson, the three basic kinds of Aktionsart are:

linear (imperfect, present)
punctiliar (aorist)
perfected state (perfect)

But, Robertson says, to fully understand the Aktionsart you also need to
know the meaning of the individual verb; e.g., in aorist, some verbs will
accent the beginning, resulting in an ingressive aorist, others will accent
the end, resulting in an effective aorist, etc. So some of the Aktionsart is
in the choice of tense, some of it is in the meaning of the verb.

Porter and Fanning both list these aspects:

Imperfective (imperfect, present)
Perfective (aorist)
Stative (pluperfect, perfect)

Personally, I think that linear = imperfective, punctiliar = perfective, and
perfected state = stative.

Some linguists distinguish syntactic aspect, illustrated above, from lexical
aspect, which is the aspect inherent to an individual verb.

Personally, I think that Aktionsart is simply the word that last century's
linguists used when trying to describe the same phenomena that more modern
linguists are describing using the term aspect, and although some writers
(e.g. Wallace) distinguish the two, I have not seen a distinction which is
used consistently by more than one writer.

To be more precise, I actually think that "kind of action" and "viewpoint"
are two different analogies used to model the same phenomena.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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