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  • Aspect in English: A ‘common sense’ view of the interplay between verbal and nominal referents by Krasimir Kabakčiev
  • Agustinus Gianto
Aspect in English: A ‘common sense’ view of the interplay between verbal and nominal referents. By Krasimir Kabakčiev. (Studies in linguistics and philosophy 75.) Dordrecht, Boston & London: Kluwer, 2000. Pp. xxi, 348. $154.00.

According to Kabakčiev, the mutual influence between the referents of VP and NPs in a sentence has to be fully taken into account in order to guarantee a proper understanding of aspect. This is what he means when he labels his approach as a ‘common sense’ view. Ch. 1 is meant to describe the essence of aspect which, according to K, consists in the opposition between perfectivity and imperfectivity. In the next two chapters K situates his view within the contemporary discussion. In Ch. 2 K explains where he differs from Zeno Vendler’s well-known classification of ‘situations’ into accomplishments, achievements, states, and activities. Furthermore, Ch. 3 specifies where K’s views depart from Henk Verkuyl’s theory, with which generally K is in agreement, especially in taking into account the bearing of nouns in the sentence on aspectuality. [End Page 221]

Since the main concern of the book is to describe verbal aspect in relation to the nominal referents in the sentence, in Ch. 4 K gives an ample discussion on the bearing of the definite article and quantifiers on aspect, putting here and there some critical observations on Verkuyl’s views of aspectuality. Ch. 5 dwells on the temporal status of the referents of the NPs in the sentence. Ch. 6 shows the mechanism for mapping the temporal values of these referents.

Ch. 7 describes the interdependence between aspectual markers in verbs and those in nouns. The findings are further expanded in Ch. 8; here K offers a new explanation of the progressive aspect by taking into account the participants involved.

The rest of the book deals with less theoretical issues. K observes in Ch. 9 that the majority of English verbs are either ‘telic’ or ‘atelic’, with the first group being the larger. Next, K treats the aspect of nominals in Ch. 10 and of adverbials in Ch. 11. These two chapters are among the more readable parts of the book. In Ch. 12, in an argumentative style, K qualifies the commonly held assumption that perfectivity and negation are incompatible.

K proposes a new classification of aspect in English in Ch. 13: states, processes, episodes, and events. The first two are said to be the clearest manifestation of ‘imperfectives’, and the last is ‘perfectives’ (i.e. accomplishments, achievements, and semelfactives). In K’s understanding, episodes form a borderline area between the two. Difficulties that sometimes are encountered in the study of aspectuality can be resolved, as suggested in Ch. 14, by taking into account the referents and their setting in the real world.

The book also includes an appendix on the Bulgarian tense-aspect system. In fact this book is based on an earlier version that appeared in 1992 in Bulgarian. The present English edition contains expansions and updates so as to include more recent developments and bibliography.

Agustinus Gianto
Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome


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