Re Perfective/Imperfective

Tue Aug 31 13:50:35 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

In a message dated 8/31/99 3:45:57 AM, vidynath at writes:

>> "treated as an indivisible unit" [perfective (NR)]
>> vs. "treated as having extent" [imperfective (NR)]

>I don't understand these terms. ``having extent'' in what? If time, how is
>``having extent in time'' different from ``having a duration''?  Also, given
>that ``indivisible'' refers to possibility rather than what is being done,
>what does ``treated as an indivisible unit mean''? Is it the same as ``treated
>as an undivided whole'' (even if it is divisible)?

There are two differences which might be relevant.
I posted my message because it appeared to me in earlier
postings that debates over "momentary" and "durative"
were caused in part by taking those terms as representing extreme
marked values, more than merely perfective and imperfective.
Hence there were legitimate counterexamples which would
potentially be of no concern if we were using minimal interpretations
as is more commonly done with "perfective" and "imperfective".

Part of this difference was also that these terms refer not to
what occurs in the real world, but rather to the mental concepts
which are being expressed.  Thus:

"treated as an indivisible unit" is different from "is an indivisible unit"
("treated as an undivided whole" is different from "is an undivided whole")
And "treated as having extent" is different from "has extent".

In my experience, "momentary" is more often used with a tinge
of "cannot be divided", more than merely "treated as undivided",
almost as a semelfactive or Aktionsart
like 'explode', 'bang', 'break' (as opposed to 'break up'), etc.

And "durative" similarly is a more marked and specialized
category than "imperfective", in my statistical experience.
Durative might be a subset of imperfective uses,
or might tend in the direction of Aktionsart flavorings.

Best wishes,
Lloyd Anderson

More information about the Indo-european mailing list