Book Highlight: Revisiting Aspect and Aktionsart by Francis G.H. Pang (Brill, 2016)

91529The study of the relationship between aspect and Aktionsart has for a long time been studied by linguists and grammarians. In general, the relationship between aspect and Aktionsart is understood as, either, they both belong to a similar grammatical/linguistic system or category, with Aktionsart, which is commonly understood as the “lexical aspect” or the “kind of action” derived from and expressed by the property of the verbal predicate (along with its co-textual features, for some), being expressed in the morphological system of a language, or, they should be seen as independent categories, hence aspect and Aktionsart cannot be combined and analyzed on the same plane of linguistic analysis.

In this book, Revisiting Aspect and Aktionsart: A Corpus Approach to Koine Greek Event Typology, Francis Pang argues for the theory that aspect and Aktionsart in Koine Greek are independent linguistic categories. More specifically, Pang states, “Aktionsart should be considered as an interpretive category, meaning that the value cannot be systematized in a linguistic analysis but can only be determined in the process of interpretation.” The author arrives at this conclusion by using a representative corpus of Hellenistic texts to examine the relationship between telicity, an alleged Aktionsart category, and perfectivity (i.e., the perfective and imperfective opposition), an aspectual category.

A highlight of this book is the author’s use of a corpus linguistics approach to accomplish its thesis. Using a quantitative methodological approach, Pang wants to validate whether previous proposals that “support assertions regarding the alleged predictable patterns of aspectual meaning from various combinations of aspectual markers, lexical characters and other clausal constituents” are meritorious. According to Pang, a problem with previous studies of Aktionsart that utilize compositional and other types of qualitative approaches is the lack of empirical evidence to support such assertions. Additionally, Pang’s study “will clarify whether or not Aktionsart can be systematically formulated or predicted, which will enhance our understanding of the nature of Aktionsart.”

This is an important resource and reference book for those studying Koine Greek grammar in general and Greek aspectology in particular. It will shed light on why aspect and Aktionsart should be studied on two different planes of linguistic/grammatical analysis. The book is divided into two parts, consisting of five chapters as follows:

  1. Aspect, Aktionsart, and New Testament Greek Studies
  2. Approaches to Event Typology
  3. A Corpus Approach to Koine Greek Event Typology
  4. Telicity and Perfectivity in Koine Greek
  5. Towards an Interpretive Understanding of Aktionsart

— Hughson T. Ong

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