A brief comment on telicity and boundedness

I find it difficult to accept the analysis of the Ancient Greek perfect as proposed by Gero and Stechow (2003; LINK: 2002 prepub version), aside from the fact that I think they rely too heavily on the traditional categories of the English perfect, the larger issue is that they successfully survey thousands of years of data without any reference to telicity. I’m at a complete loss how one could do that, especially with a grammatical morpheme like the Greek perfect.

Their only mention of telicity at all is made in defining perfective aspect, where they claim that perfective aspect denotes the completion of an event. And even this does not hold. In as much as the perfective aspect refers to an event as a single entity without reference to duration, or iteration, the perfective aspect is bounded, but it is not inherently telic. Consider the sentences below in terms of how the first entails (or doesn’t) the second.

  • John was walking in the park this morning –> John walked in the park this morning.
  • John was walking to the park this morning –/–> John walked to the park this morning.

In sentence pair (a) The imperfective predicate in entails the perfective predicate. This is possible because while the perfective predicate is bound, it is not telic. Conversely, in sentence pair (b) the imperfective predicate does not entail the perfective predicate. There is no way of knowing from the imperfective predicate whether or not John successfully arrived at the park. An endpoint in an imperfective clause is only a potential endpoint with no entailment of its achievement.

All that to say, boundedness needs to be kept distinction from telicity. Boundedness is a feature of the perfective aspect. Telicity is not.*

*To be fair, there are a number of other aspectologists** that fail to make this distinction.
**Incidentally, the correct collective noun for referring to a group of aspectuologists is: “an iteration of aspectologists.”***
***Yes, I just made that up.