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Lexical aspect and motion event encoding in homeric greek: a case study


This paper aims to investigate the role that lexical aspect (Aktionsart) plays in motion event encoding in Homeric Greek. In particular, the role of telicity as an inherent semantic property of the verb has been recently re-evaluated within the verbal system of early Indo-European languages (Bartolotta 2016). According to Talmy (1985; 2000), a translational motion event consists of an object (Figure) that moves (Motion) through a path (Path) with respect to another reference object (Ground).On the basis of textual analysis of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I will argue how Homeric Greek motion verbs turn out to be compatible with the entailment of the arrival of the Figure to the Ground according to their inherent telicity (see Bartolotta forthcoming). Specifically, I will focus on the Homeric verbs for ̔run̕ as a case study, i.e. the atelic verbs θέω théō and τρέχω trékhō, and the telic (aorist) ἔδραμον édramon (on the suppletive paradigm for 'run' in Ancient Greek see Létoublon 1985). The root presents θέω théō and τρέχω trékhō trace back to respectively the Proto-Indo-European(PIE) atelic roots *dhew- ‘run’ and *dhregh- ‘drag̕, whereas the root aorist ἔδραμον édramon traces back to the PIE telic root *drem- ‘run (to)̕ (see Rix 1998). These verbs may co-occur with both directional spatial particles, such as ἐπί epí ̔to, toward̕,εἰς/ἐς eis/es ̔into, to̕, πρό pró ̔forth, forward̕, and locative spatial particles, such as περί perí ̔around̕, παρά pará ̔beside, along̕, ἐν en ̔in̕ (see also Imbert 2008, 2010). However, textual data show a significant variation within the distribution of these verbs, which also reveal different stages of grammaticalization of the co-occurring particles (see Bertrand 2014; Pompei 2014). In particular, the telic verb ἔδραμον édramon always occurs with related spatial particles and never as an absolute verb. It is worth noting that these spatial particles are always preverbs (with a few cases of tmesis interpretable as verb-particle constructions), thus revealing a rather advanced degree of grammaticalization when they occur with telic verbs. On the contrary, the two atelic verbs τρέχω trékhō and θέω théō mostly occur as absolute verbs, without specific spatial particles. Interestingly, even in those cases in which θέω théō occurs with spatial particles, these latter are mostly prepositions rather than preverbs, thus revealing a less close relationship with the verb. Moreover, the distribution of particles turns out to be not random, to the extent to which directional particles show a prototypical semantic compatibility with the telic verb ἔδραμον édramon, rather than with the atelic verbs τρέχω trékhō and θέω théō. The analysis of larger narrative discourse contexts show that ἔδραμον édramon mostly refers to telic motion events that entail the arrival of the Figure to the Ground, with both directional and locative particles (e.g. διά diá ‘through’ or περί perí ‘around’). Differently, θέω théō and τρέχω trékhō mostly refer to atelic motion events that do not entail the arrival of the Figure to the Ground, even when they co-occur with directional particles (e.g. ἐπί epí ‘to, toward’ or πρό pró ‘forth, forward’).The main corpus resources used in this study include the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG 2000) as digital corpus of Homeric Greek texts.