Re: Aktionsart vs. Aspect

From: Mark O'Brien (
Date: Thu May 08 1997 - 07:42:58 EDT

Thanks to Michael for the very lucid comments here...

At 09:24 PM 5/7/97 -0700, you wrote:
>At 10:55 PM -0400 5/4/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>I just looked at Mari Olsen's thesis again, and she clearly says (on page 9)
>>that Aktionsart is the same thing as lexical aspect, situation aspect,
>>inherent aspect, aspectual task, verb class, and predicate class.
>It would probably help if Mari would comment on what she meant by this. I
>personally would not see all of the items in her list as synonymous. Mari:
>Do you intend all of these to mean the same, or are you suggesting that
>Aktionsart be understood as an umbrella term covering all of them?

I would agree that not all of these should be seen as synonymous terms.

>>Robertson's Aktionsart encompasses grammatical aspect as well as lexical
>Exactly. This is part of the problem. The older grammars use the term
>'Aktionsart' in a way which is not synonymous with its use in modern
>linguistics. As Mari stated in her recent note, many linguists use the term
>as a synonym for 'lexical aspect.' Others (especially in the study of
>Slavic languages) use it to mean 'aspect which is expressed explicitly
>through derivational morphology (See R.L. Trask's _A Dictionary of
>Grammatical Terms in Linguistics for examples.)

Your comments here reminded me of Carl Bache's article "Aspect and
Aktionsart: towards a semantic distinction," in Journal of Linguistics 18
(1982): 57-72. I'm surprised no-one has mentioned it thus far, but this
would be excellent reading for someone who wishes to understand the
semantic difference between the two categories. Let me provide his
summary, and y'all can work it over (!):

"With regards to the precise differentiation between aspect and Aktionsart,
I would propose the following characterization: Aktionsart concerns the
procedural characterstics* (i.e. the 'phasal structure', 'time extension'
and 'manner of development') ascribed to any given situation referred to by
a verb phrase whereas aspect reflects the situational focus with which a
situation is represented." (p. 70)

*This is actually the term Fanning prefers to use for Aktionsart =
"procedural character." In the same vein, Fanning does not refer to
"lexical aspect," but rather to the "procedural characteristics" of the
verb, which seems to me to be a little clearer than using the term "aspect"

Bache argues against those who conflate the two categories of aspect and
Aktionsart, and insists that a distinction is necessary.



Mark O'Brien
Grad. Student, Dallas Theological Seminary
Adj. Prof., Dallas Christian College

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