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In semantics, situation is used as a cover term for actions, processes and states. The concept 'situation' is so basic that it is very difficult to define it through still more basic concepts.

In describing languages, a fundamental constrast is between situations and participants. Participants are generally expressed by noun phrases, and situations are expressed by clauses. Often the term situation is also used to refer to just the verb's meaning (which can more precisely be called situation core).


The term situation for this fundamental concept has been used prominently e.g. by Comrie (1976), Lyons (1977), and Lehmann (1991).

  • "There is, unfortunately, no satisfactory term that will cover states, on the one hand, and events, processes and actions, on the other. We will use the term situation for this purpose; and we will draw a high-level distinction between static and dynamic situations." (Lyons 1977:483)

It has the disadvantage of suggesting a stative situation, but this disadvantage is shared by the competitor state of affairs, and the other competitor event has the disadvantage of even more strongly suggesting a dynamic situation (as in "event vs. state").


The most important subdivision is into stative and dynamic situations.


The term situation is also used for



Perhaps situation has first been used in this more technical semantic sense in Comrie (1976). According to Comrie (p.c. to Martin Haspelmath, May 2006), the usage in Comrie (1976) follows a suggestion of John Lyons's.


  • Bohnemeyer 2002
  • Comrie 1976
  • Dik 1978
  • Dik 1997
  • Halliday 1985
  • Lyons 1977
  • Lehmann 1991
  • Van Valin & LaPolla 1997

other languages

German Situation