LINGUIST List 15.308

Wed Jan 28 2004

Diss: Semantics/Syntax: Wilhelm: 'The...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. wilhelm, The grammatization of telicity and durativity...

Message 1: The grammatization of telicity and durativity...

Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 19:25:11 -0500 (EST)
From: wilhelm <>
Subject: The grammatization of telicity and durativity...

Institution: University of Calgary
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Andrea Wilhelm 

Dissertation Title: The grammatization of telicity and durativity in
D�ne Sulin� (Chipewyan) and German

Linguistic Field: Semantics, Syntax

Dissertation Director 1: Elizabeth Ritter

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines the relevance of two components of
predicate meaning, telicity and durativity, to the grammatical system
of natural language. More precisely, it examines to what extent
telicity and durativity are evident in a productive morphosyntactic
contrast (i.e., are grammatized) in a given language. The languages
for which this question is studied are German and D�ne Sulin�
(Chipewyan), an Athapaskan language of Northwestern Canada.

Telicity and durativity are semantic notions which (together with
stativity, which is put aside in this dissertation) underlie the
well-known Vendler (1957) classification of predicates into
accomplishments, achievements, activities, and states. This
classification, and the notions underlying it, have become
increasingly influential in the study of aspectual meaning and in
theories on the grammatical, i.e., morphosyntactic, representation of
such meaning. Currently, there is a broad consensus that telicity is
grammatized universally, while the status of durativity is under
debate: Is durativity extralinguistic, is it a semantic notion only,
or is it grammatized as well?

My study sheds new light on the debate over durativity and,
surprisingly, also challenges the universal status of telicity. It is
found that while semantically, both notions are expressible in German
as well as in D�ne Sulin�, telicity is grammatized only in the former
and durativity is grammatized only in the latter. Key evidence comes
from a careful analysis of the aspectual function of particle verbs
(German) and the so-called "conjugation markers" (D�ne).

A comparison of the larger aspectual systems of the two languages
reveals a connection between the presence of certain independent
grammatical elements and the grammatization of telicity and
durativity, respectively. This connection leads to the following
hypothesis: "If durativity is grammatized, it is grammatized in the IP
domain, through viewpoint aspect. If telicity is grammatized, it is
grammatized in the VP domain." This hypothesis implies that
durativity and telicity are profoundly different notions, as reflected
in their different grammatization loci, and that their combination, as
in the Vendler predicate types, does not lead to natural linguistic
oppositions. I propose instead the constructs of "inner aspect" and
"outer aspect". A language which grammatizes telicity has inner
aspect; a language which has a perfective-imperfective contrast and
thus grammatizes durativity, has outer aspect.
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