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Going in Homer: The Role of Verb-Inherent Actionality Within Self-Propelled Motion-Event Encoding


The paper aims at investigating the encoding of self-propelled motion events in Homeric Greek in the light of the typology of motion events, taking into account the case of to go. The verbal class of the self-propelled motion refers to those verbs expressing the idea of a simple translational motion, such as to go, to move, without any information about the manner of motion (see, by contrast, the class of the manner-of-motion verbs, such as to run, to swim) or about the path of motion (see, by contrast, the class of the path verbs, such as to enter, to exit). According to Talmy (2000), world languages can be distinguished depending on whether they prototypically express the semantic component of Path in or outside the motion verb. Languages belonging to the S(atellite)-Framed type tend to convey Path outside the motion verb, in a satellite element, such as a particle, an adposition (adpositional phrase), a preverb, an adverb(ial), a nominal case marker. The prototypical encoding pattern of the S-Framed languages, such as Homeric Greek, involves a motion verb conveying Manner and a satellite conveying Path, i.e., [manner-of-motion verb + Path-satellite]. Nonetheless, another pattern is used by this type of languages, albeit less prototypical, which involves a motion verb conveying only Motion and a satellite conveying Path, i.e., [self-propelled motion verb + Path-satellite]. Verb-inherent actionality, namely telicity, turns out to be a strong feature within the ancient Indo-European languages, such as Homeric Greek, playing a role not only in the development of aspectual/tense morphology, but also in the encoding of motion events, at least with reference to manner-of-motion verbs. The present paper aims at verifying the role of inherent telicity within self-propelled motion verbs, through the analysis of Homeric verbs for go. The study takes into account the Homeric suppletive paradigm for go, focusing on ἔρχομαι “go; come” and ἦλθον (aorist) “go; come” (also with reference to the unclear actional opposition between ἔρχομαι and εἶμι “go; come”). From the textual analysis of all the occurrences of both ἔρχομαι and ἦλθον, as well as their co-occurring Path-encoding elements in the Iliad and the Odyssey, data show to what extent verbal inherent telicity plays an important role in motion event encoding also within the class of self-propelled motion verbs.