Arbeitspapier / Institut für Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Köln
- N.F. 40
Recent activity in the theory of aspect : accomplishments, achievements, or just non-progressive state?
- It has become commonplace to introduce works on aspect with the remark that there is hardly another field in linguistics so much plagued by terminological and notional confusion. [..] About 20 major books claiming a comprehensive treatment have come to my attention during little more than the past half decade […]. Among these books are five that form the subject of this paper in a narrower sense, given that the present article originally started out as a combined review of these five works: […] Even if one is not at all keen on monocultures, it is clear that the obvious disunity in fundamental points of view makes the situation increasingly difficult for the "ordinary working linguist". It is getting impossible to keep up with the many different issues raised in the theoretical literature when, for instance, writing a chapter on aspect for a descriptive grammar of a language. As a result, a tremendous gap between descriptive and theoretical work has arisen. This has not gone unnoticed in the literature. There are several recent publications in which explicit attempts are made to bridge this gap […], all of them trying to add a typological perspective to aspect theory and to free it from its purely truth-conditional embedding, which was the dominant paradigm in the 70ies and 80ies. But again, these works are often themselves cast into specific theoretical frameworks, more often than not ignoring other approaches to the field if they do not fit their persuasions. I will therefore avail myself of the opportunity of this review article by briefly sorting out the differences in the fundamental assumptions and theoretical primitives of the various approaches, in order to come to grips with the aspectological landscape. A general, chiefly historically oriented assessment is presented in the first part of this paper (see section 1). The second part is then devoted to a detailed discussion of the books under review against the background etablished in this survey (see section 2). At the end, I will try to draw some conclusions and hint at some directions for future work with aspect in a descriptive and/or typological context (see section 3).