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Philosophical Inquiry

Volume 43, Issue 1/2, Winter/Spring 2019

In Honor of Alexander P. D. Mourelatos

Spiros A. Moschonas
Pages 178-210

Linguistics without Metaphysics
On the Classification of ‘Verb Types’

Based on A. P. D. Mourelatos's "Events, Processes, and States" (1978), an overview of the literature on „verb types‟ (or Aktionsarten) is provided in this paper; the basic conceptual, logical and grammatical tests for the identification of different verb types are also briefly reviewed. Such tests, it is argued, reveal variations in a verb’s grammatical and/or lexical aspect; accordingly, verb types should be viewed as regularities governing aspectual variation within and across sentences. Verb types are not associated with particular verbs, predicates or sentences; rather, a verb type (or a verb‟s Aktionsart) is the sum of ways in which a verb‟s aspect may vary. In other words, verb types describe the possibilities for a verb to appear in one or another of a series of interrelated constructions. Verb types are verbal possibilities or, to use B. L. Whorf‟s apt term, fashions of speaking which cut across typical grammatical classifications. It is further argued that verb types, as “mere” fashions of speaking, cannot provide a firm basis for any metaphysics of „situation types‟; i.e., the metaphysics of verb types cannot be founded on their linguistics.

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