RE: Black and Porter on Verb Aspect

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Sat Aug 02 1997 - 09:22:16 EDT

Rod Decker had a foot note which read:

<10> As Hopper points out, "a form must have a consistent
value or else communication is impossible; we cannot have
linguistic forms which derive ~all~ of their meanings
~only~ from context" ("Aspect Between Discourse and
Grammar," 4, emphasis added; see also FVA, 81-4).

Why should we invent new semantic rules for verb forms?
The genitive noun has a wide range of semantic values and
communication is still possible. The definite article has
a range of semantic values and communication is still
possible. Why should we think that a verb form has only
one semantic value? Are verbs special? Do they have a
whole different set of semantic rules from the rest of

According to my own quixotic reading of F. de Saussure,
the semantic value of a verb form is part of what is
*signified.* The *signified* is arbitrarily related to the
*signifier* and the signified is always a semantic field
(range, domain), never an individual value. I understand
that this is going beyond what is explicitly stated in F.
de Saussure, but is it not a reasonable extension of his
This thinking has been generally adopted for K. Greek
syntax (e.g., genitive case) but there are pockets of
resistance. The discussion of verb aspect seems to be one
of these pockets.

Hopper's comment quoted above seems like a desperate
attempt to hang on to a pre-modern linguistic model for
the verb.

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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