, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 415-434

Events, processes, and states

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Abstract

The familiar Vendler-Kenny scheme of verb-types, viz., performances (further differentiated by Vedler into accomplishments and achievements), activities, and states, is too narrow in two important respects. First, it is narrow linguistically. It fails to take into account the phenomenon of verb aspect. The trichotomy is not one of verbs as lexical types but of predications. Second, the trichotomy is narrow ontologically. It is a specification in the context of human agency of the more fundamental, topic-neutral trichotomy, event-process-state.

The central component in this ontological trichotomy, event, can be sharply differentiated from its two flanking components by adapting a suggestion by Geoffrey N. Leech and others that the contrast between perfective and imperfective aspect in verbs corresponds to the count/mass distinction in the domain of nouns. With the help of two distinctions, of “cardinal count” adverbials versus frequency adverbials, and of occurrence versus associated occasion, two interrelated criteria for event predication are developed. Accordingly, “Mary capsized the boat” is an event predication because (a) it is equivalent to “There was at least one capsizing of the boat by Mary,” or (b) because it admits cardinal count adverbials, e.g., “at least once,” “twice,” “three times.” Ontologically speaking, events are defined as those occurrences that are inherently countable.