Re: aktionsart and subjective

From: Mari Broman Olsen (
Date: Thu Mar 26 1998 - 14:41:26 EST

Rich writes:
> OK... thank you for the clarification here. The question then becomes, to
> what degree or extent does the selection of grammatical forms actually
> commit a person? Or, as regards to aspect, how strongly is aspect
> grammatized in the verbal endings? How strong a current is it in Greek
> thought at this particular juncture of history? My suggestion was that it
> conveyed perhaps a more gentle stream rather than an overpowering one.

The first question is about the linguistic theory, the second about
the consciousness in Greek thought. Only the first can be answered
by linguistics. I think the second is probably irrelevant: again, we
are able to use English properly (and to identify violations of
internalized 'rules'), even if we can't articulate them. To limit
future grammarians to what we are consciously aware of is to limit
linguistic study to primarily prescriptive rules (don't end a sentence
with a preposition, use 'may I' for permission instead of 'can I', ...).

> >Another semantic pragmatic note:
> >
> >Perfective semantically entails that the event is over

> Are working from a modern English understanding of what Perfective means
> here? I don't think that an event necessarily needs to be over with or
> completed in order to be either viewed or expressed as Perfective in the
> Greek mind.

I'm trying to work from a cross-linguistic perspective. My goal is to
express perfective in such a way that languages that have perfective
have a common semantic core in their forms (as reflected by the
inintuitions of grammarians who bothered to give them the same
label). Individual languages can vary in the (pragmatic?
language-specific semantic?) particulars, but that variation is
narrower than one would expect. For example, the use of the
perfective to express inception of a state is very common (and of the
imperfective to express inception of an event). If we could get at
the common semantic core we would have a theory of grammar that was
explanatory, rather than descriptive. The former is a goal of


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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