Porter’s Definitions of Aspect

I’m working on my thesis right now and I’ve been looking through various definitions of the terms aspect, perfectivity, imperfectivity, stativity, resultative, and so forth–the standard terms applied to the Greek aspectul inflectional forms (I’ve also looked at less standard terms, but those are easier to find definitions of).

I’ve worked through Fanning, Porter, Campbell, in particular, as well as McKay and a number of linguists who have written on the issues. And in the process, I have come across something that I find incredibly surprising. It may very well be that I simply cannot find them. The best I have seen is either Porter summarizing other scholar’s definitions or his parade analogy. The problem is that the former are consistently summarized and then criticized, which makes it far from clear whether he would use their definitions, whereas the latter seems to excessively informal and less than appropriate for the definitive definitions of the categories in a published, highly technical dissertation.

Am I missing something? Does Porter define the terms perfective, imperfective, and stative and I’ve just missed them? The definitions are clearly and explicitly stated in his intermediate grammar, why should they be so hard to find in his dissertation

If anyone has a suggestion as to where to look, I would be eternally grateful.


7 thoughts on “Porter’s Definitions of Aspect

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    1. They’re there in his idioms:
      a. Perfective aspect is the meaning (‘semantics’) of the aorist tense: the action is conceived of by the language user as a complete and undifferentiated process.
      b. Imperfective aspect is the meaning of the present tense, including the so-called imperfect form (augmented present form with secondary endings): the action is conceived of by the language user as being in progress. In other words, its internal structure is seen as unfolding.
      c. Stative aspect is the meaning of the perfect tense, including the so-called pluperfect form (not always augmented but with secondary endings): the action is conceived of by the language user as reflecting a given (often complex) state of affairs. This is regardless of whether this state of affairs has come about as the result of some antecedent action or whether any continued duration is implied.

      This is from pages 21-22 of his intermediate grammar.

  1. Dear Mike,

    It is this lack of clear and concise definitions that prevent the entire discussion of Verbal Aspect from moving forward. The definitions are all over the board. If those who promote Verbal Aspect want the rest of us to agree, even in concensus, then question of definitions MUST be taken care of first. Otherwise, everything is relative even this comment.


    1. I disagree.

      There are plenty of clear concise definitions and, generally speaking, there is virtually complete agreement on those definitions. Campbell is different in his proposal for the perfect, but even then his definitions are clearly stated and as even he will admit, there is no substantial difference in the end interpretive result. And as many saw at B-Greek over the past couple day: Greek Verbal Aspect, there is significant consensus.

      I also don’t understand what you mean “promote verbal aspect.” That’s not a meaningful statement to me. In my mind, that’s like promoting grammatical number. It’s not something to be promoted, its just a grammatical category that exists. But I’m guessing you do indeed mean something by the statement…perhaps you can explain it…

    1. I agree. Gentry’s discussion is very good. I’m not so much looking for just any definitions though. I know what aspect is and what how its values are defined (or should be defined). I’m specifically frustrated with the fact that a published dissertation does not define its own terms–that’s a basic skill learned at the undergraduate level. A dissertation should most definitely not have this problem.

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