Fundamentally Flawed? (Aktionsart/Aspect/Lexis)

From: James P. Ware (
Date: Thu Mar 19 1998 - 09:52:49 EST

I agree with Dale Wheeler that the distinction between Aktionsart and
aspect is crucial, and would only note that our great grammarians of the
earlier part of this century and the previous one were in essence working
with such a distinction, even if their terminology was not always
consistent. For instance, Robertson (835), speaking of the "efective"
aorist, says "But the idea is that emphasis is laid on the end of the
action as opposed to the beginning (ingressive). This is done (if done)
by the verb itself (Aktionsart). . . So then in the case of each aorist
the point to note is whether it is merely punctiliar (constative) or
whether the verb-idea has deflected it to the one side or the other
(ingressive or effective)." While the clearer distinctions of Fanning, et
al., are definitely an advance, they are in line with the tradition of
Blass, Robertson, Kuehner-Gerth, etc.

One point that I have not seen clearly made in the recent postings, but
which Fanning is careful to stress, is that, just as any word has a
semantic range of meanings, and the particular meaning employed is
determined by the context of the word within the utterance, so many
(most?) verbs have a range of possible action-types (Aktionsarten), not
just one, and which one is in force (and thus which one is reacting with
the aspectual idea) must be determined by the utterance in its context.
A good example is pisteuo, which, it seems to me, possesses a range of
possible action-types (Aktionsarten), and the one employed in any
particular case depends on the context. My general impression is that
pisteuo sometimes functions as a stative type, sometimes as an activity
type, and sometimes as a climax or accomplishment type. This might be
relevant to the recent disagrements about how to construe this verb in
various NT passages.

Jim Ware

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