Re: Black and Decker (and Porter and Terminology)

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sun Aug 03 1997 - 13:22:18 EDT

On Fri, 15 Aug 1997 17:33 Jonathan Robie wrote to Ward Powers.

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you very much for your interesting tables. You have certainly used
much time to make these. I agree with your insistence of not confusing
Aktionsart and aspect when we choose our terms, at least not in the
andvanced teaching. Yet in one area I disagree with you rather strongly. I
donęt think there is such a thing as punctiliarity inside the imperfective
aspect. I regret that this is the very field where you see the light.
Fontunately, most of the disagreement relates to terms rather than essence.

<For me, the moment of clarity came when I realized that the presents in Luke
<7:8 are punctiliar, but still imperfective. The two are not synonymous:

<Luke 7:8 And I say unto this one, "Go!", and he goes; and to another,
<"Come!", and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this!", and he does it.

<He goes instantly, but the aspect views the action from within - "Look,
<there he goes!". It would not be helpful to translate this as though it were
<durative - "he is going, he is coming, he is doing it"; they really are
<punctiliar. Yet they are also imperfective.

I define that which is punctiliar/instantaneous as something not having
inner constituency, and that is not compatible with my view of
imperfectivity (see my posting today in the thread "Aspect defs. (long)".
Regarding Luke 7:8 I understand the situation exactly as you do, but I
describe it different grammatically. The passage is a striking example of
how the definition "seen from the inside" for the imperfective aspect is
misleading. What we have here, according to my view, is an imperfective
event where the beginning not only is included but even stressed; thus
contradicting the view that beginning and end are not affected when
something is imperfective. If we interpret the words of Jesus as a closeup
view, the focus is on a person starting and continuing to walk. I agree
with your comments on the translation of the passage. But aspectual
understanding does not come through translation but translation through
aspectual understanding. In this case, English, which has no grammaticized
aspects, is not able to convey the full force of the words of Jesus. What
do you think of this?


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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