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

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Thu Mar 19 1998 - 15:13:37 EST

James P. Ware wrote:

>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.

This is precisely why, when Carl complains that he doesn't understand
what we are talking about, I think to myself...of course he does, he
just has never used the terminology we are using or talked about verbs
this way...but what he writes betrays a knowledge of these concepts at
an intuitive level... (-;

>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.

This is one of the things that I've been wrestling with in this area
for some time now...and I'm agnostic at this point, though I'm leaning
in the direction of there being in almost all cases just one Aktionsart
for every verb. The problem with talking about this issue is that the
only way to discover the possible Aktionsart/lexis of any verb is to
talk/think about it being used...and as soon as you do that the verb has
been colored by aspect and other contexual factors. I think this may
be related to Mari's post about the lack of agreement between various
researchers trying to figure out the Aktionsart of various verbs.

For example, is PISTEUW stative by Aktionsart/lexis or by aspect/context
in the sentence, "I believe the sun will come up tomorrow." My sense
is that this type of use of PISTEUW/believe is not stative by Aktionsart,
but "stative" by aspect, ie., the act of moving from non-belief (whether
that was the fact that one didn't believe it or simply had never considered
it before) is concluded and the settled state has not changed. Its almost
as if we are dealing with a *personal* gnomic or generic statement (as
opposed to the normal universal gnomic/generics). I impresses me that
many of the verbs related to mental activity do the same thing...but
I'm still essentially agnostic on this.


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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