Aspectual nesting illustrated

Kimmo Huovila kimmo at
Tue Dec 12 01:54:03 EST 2000

I have several times referred to aspectual nesting without actually
explaining it. So I try to illustrate it now using a sentence built
around the verb NHSTEUW.

NHSTEU- stem is imperfective (unbounded, open). It describes an
activity. That is its lexical aspect.
If it is in the present tense (NHSTEUW), also the grammatical aspect is
imperfective. But in the aorist (ENHSTEUSA) the grammatical aspect is
perfective (bounded). This does not change the process on NHSTEU- in any
way. This is an imperfective aspect inside a perfective. This could be
coded as B(O) for short, where B stands for Bounded and O for Open.

When you add a further qualifier, you can have more layers:
ENHSTEUSA DIS TOU SABBATOU. The fasting process is imperfective, which
is then bounded (fast once), then again opened (repeated instances of
fasting once) and then bounded again (limited to two in the week;
according to the reading that one specific week is referred to). Thus we
get B(O(B(O))). You can add a layer by further qualifying the sentence
ETOS. This would bound the habit of fasting twice a week to the period
of one year. And so forth.

This above illustrates semantic nesting of aspects. Also, there are
structural slots for different layers. They do not always need to have
exact correspondence to the semantic layers. Thus NHSTEUW is
semantically imperfective, but structurally it has two imperfective
slots, the stem and the present 'tense'. Two adjacent imperfective slots
do not give an additional semantic layer.


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