[Lingtyp] Theme session call: The lexicon in aspectuality

Johanna NICHOLS johanna at berkeley.edu
Tue Oct 30 19:05:06 UTC 2018

We invite preliminary submissions for a theme session:

A cross-linguistic perspective on the role of the lexicon in aspectuality
ALT 13, Pavia (September 2019)

               Thera Crane (University of Helsinki)
               Johanna Nichols (University of California, Berkeley)
               Bastian Persohn (University of Hamburg)

            A number of different theoretical accounts lay out a small
set of actional classes together with a set of verbal lexicosemantic
properties that determine them. Among the most influential is
Vendler’s (1957) typology and modifications thereof (e.g. Smith 1997,
Croft 2012). Vendler’s original classification included states (e.g.
‘love’), activities (e.g. ‘run’), accomplishments (e.g. ‘eat an
apple’, ‘run a mile’) and achievements (e.g. ‘reach the summit’,
‘arrive’); to these, Smith added the category of semelfactive (verbs
like ‘cough’ and ‘kick’).
            Subsequent work, however, has shown that each of these
proposals lacks sufficient detail to satisfactorily categorize the
linguistic instantiation of states-of-affairs in many languages (see
e.g. Bar-el 2015 and references therein). Needed now are
descriptively-based cross-linguistic studies proposing and testing
typologies that identify more categories and apply more broadly.
             Actionality(also known as lexical aspect, verb aspect,
situation type, aktionsart, aspect2, and other terms)  arises through
the interaction of a lexical verb's meaning and aspectual potential
and its possible argument configurations and their bounding potential
(Sasse 2002). We understand actionality as the configuration of
constituent phases and boundaries that make up a state of affairs
(Binnick 1991).The contribution of lexical items to aspectual
interpretations is a primary component in understanding how
states-of-affairs are conceptualized in human language.  Nonetheless,
there has been almost no lexically-based or wordlist-based
cross-linguistic work in this area.
            There are studies identifying actionality phenomena that
might profitably be pursued cross-linguistically.  For instance,
current work on the Bantu language family suggests complex
lexicalization patterns, in which a single lexeme encodes a
coming-to-be phase (e.g. ʻbecoming angryʼ), the ensuing state change,
as well as the resultant state (ʻbeing angryʼ) (Botne & Kershner 2000,
Kershner 2002, among many others; for an overview see Crane & Persohn,
in prep.). Another remarkable phenomenon, reported mostly for (but not
limited to) languages of Asia and the Americas, is non-culminating
readings of Vendlerianaccomplishments (as in ‘S/he read the book but
did not finish it' (sic!)); see Martin et al. 2016 for an overview.
Theoretical work generally treats states as basic and state changes as
derived (e.g. Van Valin 2006 for predicate semantics; Koontz-Garboden
for derivation), but Nichols 2015 and ongoing work finds that many
languages treat change of state as basic.

The goals of the theme session are therefore as follows:
·     to bring together empirical evidence on actional categories from
a broad spectrum of languages
·     to discuss new proposals for typologies of lexicosemantic and
actionality classes
·     to shed light on ʻunexpected’ readings or construals, such as
the non-culmination of accomplishments, and on the semantic factors
that favour these
·     to work towards developing best documentary practices for
descriptive accuracy and typological comparison – if, in fact,
actional categories can be made comparable across languages

            We will consider publication of the papers as a special
journal issue or an edited volume.


Please indicate your interest in participating, together with a
preliminary title. If the theme session proposal is accepted by the
ALT Program Committee, your abstract will have to be submitted in
early 2019 (we will send reminders and guidelines).

Deadline for statements of interest:     November 12, 2018  (Monday)

Contact:    persohn.linguistics at gmail.com, thera.crane at helsinki.fi,
johanna at berkeley.edu
                            (please send your E-mail to all three addresses)


Bar-el, Leora. 2015. Documenting and identifying aspectual classes
across languages. In Bochnak & Matthewson (eds.) Methodologies in
semantic fieldwork, 75–109. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bickel, Balthasar. 1997. Aspectual scope and the difference between
logical and semantic representation. Lingua 102.115-131.

Binnick, Robert I. 1991. Time and the verb: a guide to tense and
aspect. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Botne, Robert & Tiffany L. Kershner. 2000. Time, tense and the perfect
in Zulu. Afrika und Übersee 83. 161–180.

Crane, Thera Marie & Bastian Persohn. n.d. What’s in a Bantu verb?
Manuscript available on request.

Croft, William. 2012. Verbs: Aspect and causal structure. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Kershner, Tiffany L. 2002. The verb in Chisukwa: aspect, tense and
time. Bloomington: Indiana University dissertation.

Koontz-Garboden, Andrew. 2012. The monotonicity hypothesis. In Violeta
Demonte & Louise McNally, eds., Telicity, change, and state: A
cross-categorial view of event structure.

Martin, Fabienne, Zsófia Gyarmarthy & Károly Varasdi. 2016. On
non-culminating interpretations of telic predicates. Handout from the
Fall School on Tense, Mood and Aspect, Paris 5 & 7 November 2016.

Nichols, Johanna. 2015. State-based vs. transition-based lexical event
structure. Paper read at the workshop on resultative constructions,
Stockholm University, November 2015.

Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 2002. Recent activity in the theory of aspect:
Accomplishments, achievements, or just non-progressive state?
Linguistic Typology6(2). 199–271.

Smith, Carlota S. 1997 [1991]. The parameter of aspect, 2nd edn.
Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Van Valin, Robert D., Jr. 2006. Some universals of verb semantics. In
Ricardo Mairal & Juana Gil, eds., Linguistic Universals, 155-178.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vendler, Zeno. 1957. Verbs and times. The Philosophical Review 66. 143–160.

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