The Mysterious Disappearance of Verb Aspect

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sat Apr 11 1998 - 09:44:53 EDT

When the "meaning" of a verb's aspect is considered together with lexical
meaning of the word and all the other semantic information provided by the
higher levels of discourse, it seems to melt into insignificance. That is the
meaning of the aspect alone seems to be so over powered by the other carriers
of meaning that it is almost as if the aspectual marking of the verb is some
kind of ghost that one cannot quite see.

In Chapter 3 of Fanning (Verb Aspect). On Page 163, under 3.2 "The Effect of
Compositional Elements on Aspectual Function", Fanning states ". . . the
overall meaning of the aspects can be greatly influenced by other elements
used in composition with the verb." This seems like a innocent statement. But
having read the rest of the chapter up to that point, I was more inclined to
modify his statement so that it would read: ". . . the overall meaning of the
aspects *is nearly eclipsed* by other elements used in composition with the verb."

It seems that verb aspect is kind of a shadowy being and when it is surrounded
by it's stronger siblings like lexical semantics and discourse semantics it is
hard to see, almost not there.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062


In the statement quoted here, Fanning seems to have once again qualified his notion of "invariant meaning" that he defends so strongly earlier in the book. It is hard for me to see just exactly what can remain that is invariant after all this qualification.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:23 EDT