Porter, Robertson & Systemic Networks

Those of you who have read Porter’s book on Verbal Aspect probably remember seeing his little chart delineating Verbal Aspect within the Systemic linguistic framework.

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We see this picture in his monograph on page 90.

I have argued previously that his proposals about aspect* are significantly less revolutionary than we’ve been led to think (particularly HERE, but the rest of that series is relevant as well).

I’m also curious about how revolutionary his systemic system is as well; where the speaker has a choice between the perfective/non-perfective and if non-perfective, then a choice between imperfective and stative. Other than terminology (which is synonymous**), is this not identical to what Robertson says?

All verbs may be described as “punctiliar” (punktuell) and “non-punctiliar” (nicht-punktuell). But the “non-punctiliar” divides into the indefinite linear (durative) and the definite linear (completed or perfect) (Robertson, 823).

Translated into modern terminology, it says,

All verbs may be described as “perfective” and “non-perfective.” But the “non-perfective” divides into the indefinite linear (imperfective) and the definite linear (completed or perfect, i.e. stative)

Nothing new under the sun, eh?

*I’m not talking about his arguments about tense versus proximity. That’s a separate issue, though I don’t think he’s very revolutionary on that either.

**The only debatable point on this is how identical Robertson’s description of the Perfect parallels Porter’s. But generally, when Stative is used in Indo-European linguistics, it is equivocal to the Perfect.

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