aktionsart and subjective

From: Mari Broman Olsen (molsen@umiacs.umd.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 25 1998 - 13:49:50 EST

In the work on aspect/aktionsart in linguistics and philosophy, the
concept (certainly not the term) is usually traced to Aristotle
(Metaphysics 1048b), in which he distinguishes energeian and kinhsin
(what WAS the 'eta' transliteration supposed to be--never mind: it's a
FAQ, I know) ont eh basis of entailment patterns between perfective
and imperfective forms. I think there is a discussion of states there
as well. (Confusingly, we generally use 'telic' for the OPPOSITE
class of words these days: for those that have an inherent bound
(e.g. win), rather than for those that carry their purpose in
themselves (e.g. run).

On subjectivity, this feature is often used to distinguish tense from
aspect, not because the interpretation of the forms is subjective (I
would argue it is not, at its semantic core), but because the choice
of the forms is, in a broader way than tense. That is, if a speaker
wants to assert (semantically) that an event is fast, she uses a past
form. However she can choose to present the same past event as
completed (perfective), ongoing-at-the-time (imperfective) or neutral
(unmarked). THat choice depends on how she wants to weave it into the
discourse (fore- or background, e.g.). Once having chosen
(subjectively) the presentation, the interpretation of the particular
form chosen is constrained objectively by its semantics.

Does this make sense (Rich?).


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
WEB: http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/~molsen

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