Re: Aspect & Aktionsart

From: Moon-Ryul Jung (
Date: Wed Oct 06 1999 - 08:56:13 EDT

On 10/05/99, ""Garland H. Shinn" <>" wrote:
> Friends,
> What is the currently accepted distinction between these words when
> dealing with verbs? My understanding is that aspect relates to the way
> the verb is used in the sense of whether it is gnomic aorist, constative
> aorist, etc. while Aktionsart deals with whether the action or state is
> either defined (progressive, etc.) or undefined. Is this an accurate
> statement?
> Thanks for your input in this area.
> Garland

There have been so many discussions on this topic on this list. Let me
provide my understanding as a computational linguist who tries to process
in a mechanical manner, and dislikes redundant and unconsistent

The Aktionsart of a verb ("read") or a verb phrase ("read a book",
"read a book for an hour") refers to the type or kind of the situation
described by the verb or the verb phrase. It is also called "lexical
aspect" or "aspectual class". They should be thought of an intrinsic
properties of lexical meaning,
independent of context. So, it does not refer to a specific situation,
which needs more components added to the verb or verb phrase.

The major division among the aspectual classes is between process and
Process can be divided into telic process (which has a built-in terminal
point, e.g. "reading a magazine article") and atelic process ("He walked")
. We must add "instantaneous events" to the aspectual class.

Now, "aspect" seems to be used in two senses. (1) Some people use it to
mean the subjective viewpoint (perspective) of viewing the same situation.
(2) Other people use it to mean a grammatical category of the verb,
implemented by affixes, auxiliaries, and such. To avoid confusion, some
author I know uses
the "aspectual perspective" to refer to the first sense of "aspect", and
"grammatical aspect" for the second sense of "aspect". The aspectual
perspective is
usually described by the position of the reference time relative to the
situation described. Two important aspectual perspectives are
"imperfective". It is the aspectual perspective of the sentence that is
ultimately important for understanding; both grammatical aspect
and aspectual class sometimes uniquely determine, and sometimes just
constrain, the aspectual perspective.
In English, for instance, the progressive aspect ("-ing") gurantees that
sentence perspective is imperpective, except for sentences describing
instantaneous events ("He was blinking" does not put the reference time in
the middle of an individual blink)


Moon R Jung
Associate Professor
Dept of Computer Science
Soongsil University,
Seoul, Korea

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:40 EDT