re: aktionsart and subjective

From: Richard Lindeman (
Date: Wed Mar 25 1998 - 18:19:02 EST

>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?).

Yes, it does makes some sense to me... but not entirely. I still need to
be convinced that there is actually a semantic core at work here. Consider
a train in motion. From the perspective of the person inside the train is
it moving? From the perspective of the person just outside of the train is
it moving? Or what about from the perspective of the person who is a great
distance away? There is no such thing as "moving" in and of itself.
"Moving" is *always* done in relationship to something else that is not
moving or is moving in a different direction. I could argue that this
really isn't a question of what is happening at a given moment of time at
all. Depending on my own personal viewpoint the train is either moving or
it is not moving and that is a fact. It is not a speculation on my part.
It is a subjective fact more based on personal vantage point than on time.
Now going from there I could subjectivize the situation even more by
*mentally choosing* to look at the situation in a different way than I am
actually seeing with my eyes. I suppose we could say that what I see with
my eyes is semantics *for me* and what I decide in my mind is pragmatics
*for me*. But is the train actually moving? Although I started this
paragraph by saying that it was a "train in motion", I really can't answer
that question without some kind of frame of reference.

I suppose the real question how strong the stream of Aspect was depends on
how seriously it was taken in the NT era both by the speakers and the
hearers. If they both took the matter seriously then it was indeed a strong
contextual current. But I don't know how strong a force it was then, so
all I can do is imagine.


Rich Lindeman

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