From: Mari Broman Olsen (
Date: Tue Mar 17 1998 - 14:33:02 EST

In re:

This is a little off topic so responses should probably be private,

The aspect theory people throw around the terms semantic and pragmatic
in a manner that leaves my head spinning. I am hopelessly out of date
since my study of semantics predated the flowering of the aspect
theory debate.

Could one of you who have studied this help me understand how these
two terms are currently being used. Please keep in mind I don't know
all the current linguistics terminology so the definitions have to be
in plain language.

Meanwhile I am going to check Micheal Palmer's web page and see if he
has anything on this.

- -- Clayton Stirling Bartholomew Three Tree Point P.O. Box 255
Seahurst WA 98062
This is NOT off topic, but an important distinction that gets buried
in the Greek literature (and in linguistics proper). Pragmatics
refers to those aspects of meaning that are contextually manipulable,
or determined (e.g., when I say "I am writing to you", the content of
who "I" and "you" point to is contextually determined). Semantics in
contrast with pragmatics (a narrower usage than the lay/popular
approach, which has connotation of all 'meaning') refers to those
aspects of meaning that are invariant across contexts, i.e. that "I"
and "you" are pronouns of first and second person.

In (aspectual) practice, it is important to determine what the
verbs/verb forms must and do say (semantics), and then to allow
pragmatics to specify the meaning more fully.

Example: imperfective aspect may possibly be defined semantically as
something that predicates of an event or state that it is ongoing.
That it may also have an inception-then-ongoing reading must be
pragmatic, since the inceptive is not present in every case.

Hope this is short enough to be interesting, long enough to be


Mari Broman Olsen
Research Associate

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
3141 A.V. Williams Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

PHONE: (301) 405-6754 FAX: (301) 314-9658

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