Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Mon Aug 18 12:56:37 UTC 2003

>> The point was made in discussion that iteratives
>>typically allow for several repetitions of an action, and thus the
>>question arose as to what is the appropriate term (if any) for a
>>construction which refers to an action being done and then repeated
>>on one occasion only.
I'm not sure that in general one can say that the term "iterative" tends
to be restricted to verbal categories that refer to actions repeated on
several occasions. For instance, in Bybee et al., The Evolution of
Grammar, p. 127, the authors define "iterative" as "an event that is
repeated on a particular occasion". They also point out that in
reference grammars, iteratives are sometimes called "repetitives" (as in
my Grammar of Lezgian, Mouton de Gruyter, 1993).

On the other hand, in V. Xrakovskij (ed.) Typology of iterative
constructions (Munich: Lincom Europa, 1997), the term is defined as
referring to events that occur repeatedly (i.e. several times) (it seems
that Bybee et al.'s term for these is "frequentative").

So even the typological literature is not consistent, and of course the
descriptive literature is even less so.

My conclusion from this state of affairs is that the term "iteratives"
should not be used at all -- once a term has been widely and prominently
used in two different senses, it is usually better to give it up and use
alternatives (e.g. just "pluractional" and "repetitive").


Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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