Are Semelfactives a basic aspectual category?
Ábalos Juez, Zuriñe
MetadataShow full item record
This paper is an analysis of Semelfactives, the aspectual class introduced and defined by Smith (1991) as single-stage events occurring very quickly. Examples of Semelfactives include bodily events (e.g. blink, sneeze, cough), punctual actions (e.g. tap, peck, scratch, kick), internal events such as flash etc. Little research has been conducted on this event type class, to the extent that they have sometimes been reduced to Zeno Vendler’s Activities or Achievements. This being so, this dissertation aims at showing that Semelfactive predicates can be considered a basic aspectual category. In pursuing that objective, I define some basic concepts which need to be understood before proceeding to the analysis of Semelfactives (mainly related to lexical aspect and aspectual classifications). In addition, the grammatical and semantic characteristics of Activities and Achievements are shown, and linguistic evidence is provided in order to see how they both resemble and differ from Semelfactives in several respects. Moreover, by thoroughly analysing Semelfactives, I argue that they can have an iterative interpretation (i.e. Activity reading), which accounts for their compatibility with durative expressions such as the progressive, with which whereas Activities denote sets of events constructed via S-summing (characteristic of atelic predicates), sets of naturally atomic events are expressed by Semelfactives. I also explain telicity in terms of atomicity (following Rothstein 2004, 2007, 2008), claiming that Semelfactives behave as telic predicates, in the sense that they always denote an event with an inherent endpoint (due to their natural atomic nature), which accounts for the telic reading they obtain when combined with punctual expressions (i.e. at adverbials). Although I focus mainly on English Semelfactives, their equivalents in Spanish and Basque are also provided, where despite some minor differences, the same behaviour is observed. I conclude this paper by arguing that differences between the event classes under study are significant enough for Semelfactives to be considered an independent aspectual category with its own features: [-static], [-durative], [+telic].