Wikipedia tells about the difference and relation between lexical aspect and grammatical aspect. Whereas the lexical aspect is a specific way to put focus onto how to observe an event on a semantic level, the grammatical aspect is its concrete realization either by means of syntax or morphology.

My question aims to the following: Since each language has either syntactical, morphological or both ways of realizing an event, is it possible to express every lexical aspect by what choice of realization ever?

for example: Is there a language that is not able to express the concept of inchoativeness or progressiveness?

  • 3
    It's a standard view in linguistics that any language is capable of expressing anything that can be expressed in any other language. But languages vary in what they require speakers to do, and may require longer or shorter utterances to achieve the same end. Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 2:56
  • Aren't inchoativeness and progressiveness more grammatical than lexical aspect?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 11:15
  • "Whereas the lexical aspect is a specific way to put focus onto how to observe an event on a semantic level" I don't think this is correct.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 11:16
  • How would you change it, or would you abandon it completely and reword it?
    – meireikei
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 14:35
  • 1
    Maybe start by asking what the difference between lexical and grammatical aspect is. It might already have been asked (I don't know) but if it hasn't that would be a really good question.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


The distinction between lexical and grammatical aspect is not particularly relevant when it comes to cross-linguistic comparisons. Each language has a number of ways of describing events with respect to their duration, completeness, repetition, etc. which is broadly labelled as aspect. Sometimes aspectual meanings are separated from other types of meanings (like mode, manner, time, sequentiality, evidentiality, etc.), more often they are blended together.

Each language has a unique blend of these expressions that determine what gets routinely said by its speakers. Each language forces speakers to make different commitments as to what is specified and what is not. This could be at the level of grammar or lexicon or somewhere in between. (One of the reasons 'construction' is a better model for this than grammar or lexicon.)

For instance, most Czech deverbatives contain information about progress or completeness. So for instance, there are two different ways to say 'Shopping is tiring.' that clearly indicate whether it's the process or the complete event. In English, there are ways to express that distinction but they would require a discursive solution. What happens, however, is that most of the time English speakers just don't bother. It's not information that is all that relevant most of the time to Czech speakers, either. But the language forces that commitment. When you're translating, you may discover that this commitment makes things difficult. This is something translators deal with every day.

So, in this sense, languages are broadly commensurate when it comes to the communicative needs of their respective speakers. But they are not commensurate when it comes to replicating each other's grammatical commitments.

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