re: Fundamentally flawed

From: Richard Lindeman (
Date: Sun Mar 22 1998 - 16:33:50 EST

Rolf Furuli writes:

>Here is your stress on the context important. Instead of defining aspect in
>objective terms such as "ongoing (durative)" , "complete(d)" or
>"punctiliar" and create different subgroups ("gnomic", "inceptive",
>"progressive" etc), we should find a generalization (a subjective
>viewpoint) which encompasses all the different places of focus ( relative
>to the beginning and end of an event or state) in each aspect. And because
>the context is important for this, I believe that aspects are pragmatic
>rather than semantic. However, we cannot start with the context but rather
>with the elementary building blocks, the lecical meaning of each verb. Then
>we must build higher units by a combination of verb/subject/ object, either
>from the point of view of +/- telicity or from the view of voice. In this
>stage the context starts to be important, and it becomes really important
>when we want to define aspect.

You are probably be right. It might be impossible for me to build an entire
linguistic framework upon the foundation of context. I agree that we may
need to wait for context to become a significant enough element before
incorporating it into our grammatical descriptions and definitions. But I'm
a bit stubborn once I get started on something. So let me continue to
elaborate my thoughts on this just a bit more and see how far I can get
before my twisted piece of logic falls apart and one of you pounces on it.

Words never just fly out of a person's mouth. There is always some kind of
context to begin with. And there are certain fundamental contexts which are
essential for any communication to take place to begin with. One could
certainly argue that *people*, * thought*, and *language* are the three
most fundamental contexts required for communication to take place. Of
course in addition to these there may also be a myriad of other contexts
involved as well, but these three are the required ones for communication
to take place. These three fundamental contexts are related to each other
in this way... thought flows from people and language flows from thought.

So where does Aktionsart come from? I believe it flows primarily from the
fundamental context of *thought*. Thought is context. In fact, it is one
of the big three contexts required for communication to take place. A
thought comes to my mind and I think about it and then the thought demands
that I express it in words. That is the way it that it is with the very
thoughts I am trying to express to you right now. It is not easy. Context
is often difficult to deal with. It is not easy to express my thoughts in
words so that you have the very same understanding as I do. But thought is
*context* and as such it can demand expression whether it is easy or not.
Nothing else can make demands like context can. Everything else reacts.

I see Aktionsart as being primarily a reaction to the context of *thought*.
OK... since I have not yet read Fanning or any other recent book on
Aktionsart... you are going to have to bear with me if I misrepresent these
concepts. As I understand it, in Aktionsart one studies the words which
have thoughtfully chosen by an author. In particular, one analyzes the
choice of verb, its subject and predicate. Why do this? Our objective is
to uncover the very *thoughts* which compelled the author to select these
particular type of words. "If I can only discover the Aktionsart", I say
to myself, "then I might be able to know the very thoughts of the author
even as he/she was choosing the words with which to speak." It is exciting
when successful. For once uncovered, the Aktionsart of a verb can tell us
perhaps some of the authors thought as well as the initial rudiments
language in expressing that thought. But the glory of Aktionsart is also
its weakness. One of the weaknesses of a study in Aktionsart is that it
attempts to know what in some situations may be impossible to know... the
very thoughts of an author. More on this later...

Tense also flows from the context of *thought* as does every element of
grammar. But tense is not quite as closely related to *thought* as
Aktionsart is. Tense is added *after* the verb of Aktionsart has already
been thoughtfully chosen. *Thought* is still taking place when tense is
added, but now it may or may not be exactly the same thought as existed
when the verb of Aktionsart was first chosen. Our thoughts change that
quickly. Just as my car enables me to change my travel route to school as I
am in transit... so also we find that Tense offers the author an
opportunity to adapt or change the original thought which began with
Aktionsart. How does it do this? Tense reacts to two other contexts which
Aktionsart does not. Tense reacts primarily to contexts which we call
*time* and *aspect*.

That is probably far enough out on the limb for the moment to get some


Rich Lindeman

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