Re: Fundamentally flawed? (Aktionsart/Aspect/Lexis)

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Wed Mar 18 1998 - 20:52:24 EST

Richard Lindeman wrote:
>I am beginning to wonder whether or not our fundamental concept of
>Aktsionsart isn't flawed. Ever since the recent discussion on this topic
>began I have been reading passages of scripture and consciously attempting
>to note the interplay of Aspect and Aktsionsart. My conclusion is this...
>I question whether there really is such a thing as Aktsionsart. Please bear
>with me on this thought for a moment.
>I am finding it extremely difficult to classify *any* verb by its
>Aktsionsart. The same verbal root can always freely be used to express
>simple action, ongoing action, or completion *within different contexts*.


I think I may be the cause of this, since I unconciously assumed that
when I used Aktionsart everyone would know what I meant...I'm really
sorry, that was very condescending of me, but I assure you that it was
NOT intentional !! As a teacher I should know better !!!

I can't speak for anyone else's approach to the concept of Aktionsart, but
the one I follow is from Buist Fanning's _Verbal Aspect_. As I see it,
Aktionsart and aspect are NOT the same thing; so, if we assume Fanning,
the reason you're having a problem is that you are looking--its sounds
to me--for the wrong in fact are looking for aspect nuances
normally associated with the tenses, not Aktionsart categories. Here's
the way that Fanning lays it out (Capital Names are the specific function

<no change> <change>
                / \
             / \
     <unbounded> <bounded>
                          / \
                         / \
        <durative> <non-durative>
                                  / \
                                 / \
                     <prefaced> <non-prefaced>

Or to look at it another way:

STATES (no change; unbounded; durative)
Actions (change)
ACTIVITIES (change; unbounded; durative)
Performances (change; bounded)
ACCOMPLISHMENTS (change; bounded; durative; prefaced)
Achievements (change; bounded; non-durative)
CLIMAXES (change; bounded; prefaced; non-durative)
PUNCTUALS (change; bounded; non-prefaced; non-durative)

Durative is self-explanatory; bounded means that the action has
an ending point; prefaced means that the action has a starting

Thus when I speak of "to hit" as a "punctual", I'm not referring
to it by the aspectual idea associated with the Aorist verb per
se, but by the above taxonomy (in this case it just so happens
that there is the same type of action in both). When I speak
of "to believe" as a "Climax", I mean that there has been a
change (from non-belief), it is bounded (ie., there is a point
at which the change actually has taken place and thus is
concluded), it is non-durative (ie., once the change has taken
place the *act* of believing is no longer taking place--which
is not the same thing as saying that the believer is not faithful
or does not continue to hold to the belief position adopted),
and it is prefaced (ie., there was a process that the person
went through which led to the change from non-belief to
belief) admittedly difficult example.

To give some other examples (hopefully easier):

I am (State)
I run (Activity; unbounded and durative)
I close (Accomplishment; bounded; durative; prefaced)

Once the Aktionsart of the verb has been identified, then I
ask how the tense form (grammaticalization) is aspectually
nuancing the verb (Fanning has a whole chapter laying that
process can see its application in my syntax notes
contained in GRAMCORD for Windows/Bible Companion...this is
NOT a plug, just a convenient reference for those of you who
have the program !!). So for example; if the "Punctual"
"to hit" is used in the Aorist, then that is to be expected;
but when it is used in the Imperfect, it means some sort of
repeated hitting, which could either be iterative, customary,
habitual, etc...which specific one must be determined by
the specifics of the context. Conversely, the "Activity"
"to run" will normally occur in the Imperfect if the writer
doesn't wish to change the Aktionsart of the verb (so that
Aktionsart and aspect line up); when its in the Aorist the
action is portrayed in some sort of compressed manner,
either as a complexive, ingressive, "stative", etc.

I hope that helps rather than obscures...


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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