Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Leora Bar-el

Commitee Members

Dr. Irene Appelbaum, Dr. Tully Thibeau


semelfactive, lexical aspect, aktionsart, aspect


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Linguistics | Other Linguistics


This thesis presents an analysis of the internal structure of semelfactive predicates. I propose that the lexical aspect class of semelfactives consists of three sub-categories: (i) semelfactive predicates with internal plurality, (ii) semelfactive predicates which are uni-directional and (iii) semelfactive predicates with plurality of participants. Based on these sub-categories, I further propose that the feature of instantaneity attributed to semelfactives (Smith 1997), should not be used, as semelfactives are in actuality not instantaneous events. Furthermore, I propose that an additional feature of atomicity, which distinguishes between events with plurality and those without, should be added to the binary features of lexical aspectual classes in order to mark a distinction between semelfactives and activities.

In order to arrive at these proposals this thesis examines data collected from native English speakers across a range of predicates (including predicates which have been classified as semelfactives in the literature as well as predicates which have not been analyzed in the literature). A series of tests were applied to these predicates in order to determine their potential internal structure.

This thesis has several implications. First, it provides a better understanding of the feature of single occurrence which is often attributed to semelfactives (Smith, 1997). Second, it provides a means of accounting for some variation within the class of semelfactives. It has implications for the relation between semelfactives and other lexical aspect classes. Finally, it provides a series of tests which can be used both on English predicates as well as cross-linguistically to examine the internal structure of semelfactives.



© Copyright 2018 Lynn C. Nelson