Aktionart is a grammarian’s way of describing what “kind of action” a verb describes in its context, whether a repetitive action, an action beginning, or a state of being, for example.
“Gnomic” is an adjective that describes some universal, timeless truth. So when James writes, “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” (James 1:11), he uses aorist verbs (for those of you interested in such things) which are ideally suited in their aspect for creating a gnomic Aktionart, expressing a general statement about reality.
Verbal “aspect” (since you asked) is a way of communicating the speaker’s viewpoint upon the action. If the speaker describes the action as from a viewpoint spacially or temporally distant, he employs a perfective aspect. If he describes the action as unfolding right before his eyes, he employs an imperfective aspect.
Zondervan has just published Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, by Constantine Campbell. Constantine argues that classical and koine Greek actually did not employ tenses (past or present) as we do in English, but instead used aspect. When translating the Greek Testament in to English, we need to pay attention to aspect and context to determine what English tense to employ.
I’m something of a hobby linguist and Greek nerd, so I found this book fascinating. Russian language also uses aspect, so the concept in Greek was not completely foreign to me. All the same there were still some parts that left me scratching my head saying, “Huh?!?” Undoubtedly, that is no fault of Dr. Campbell’s.
Shortly, I plan to post something more along the lines of a book review here on Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, but for the moment, I merely wanted to gush about Greek grammar. It’s the coolest evar!
His book just happens to be available at Grace Books International.