Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Chauncey J. Mellor

Committee Members

David Lee, Stefanie Ohnesorg, Robert Sklenar


In 1824, Jacob Grimm first used the terms perfective and imperfective to describe the German verbal system and initiated the discussion of the aspecto-actional meaning in such pairs as jagen : erjagen. Since then, German research has frequently failed to define aspectological terms and categories unambiguously.

This study examines the status of German aspectological research, with special reference to the boundary between the categories Aspekt and Aktionsart. For background, this dissertation successively examines early German aspectological research (1824 to 1930), landmark German grammars, German aspectological research since 1970, cross-linguistic aspectological research in the Slavic and Anglo-American traditions with regard to these terms and categories.

This permits clear identification of the most frequent definitional problems in German aspectology: (a) confusing application of the category pairs perfectivity vs imperfectivity and terminativity vs. aterminativity; (b) restriction of the term grammatischer Aspekt to Slavic aspect; (c) differentiation of Aspekt and Aktionsart only by the degree of grammaticalization vs. lexicalization; (d) failure to restrict Aktionsart to a specific level of representation, e.g. morphology.

Some resulting terminological problems are: (1) the use of term Aspekt indiscriminately to denote three grammatical categories, aspect, the semantic category, perfectivity, and the semantic category, aspectuality; (2) the use of the term Aktionsart to denote: (a) semantic groups of verbs, (b) the lexico-grammatical verbal classes, (c) the semantic category, terminativity, and (d) the semantic category, aspectuality; (3) the use of the term Aktionsart to denote simultaneously the actional classes of verbs and morphologically marked and unmarked semantic groups of verbs, such as ingressive, inchoative etc.; (4) plethora of terms for the opposition terminative vs. aterminative; (5) unjustified use of the terms perfective vs. imperfective in the description of the German verbs.

Based on the results of this analysis, unambiguous definitions and internationally acceptable terminology for the major aspectological categories are suggested. Four factors are essential for this: (1) distinguishing aspectual, actional and temporal categories within the functional-semantic domain of aspectotemporality; (II) distinguishing between aspectual and actional meanings; (III) distinguishing aspectual and actional meanings from their means of expression; (IV) distinguishing between Aspekt, Aktionalklassen and Aktionsarten on the level of expression.

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