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Is there any grammatical terminology to describe the difference between 'hear' and 'listen'?

E.g.

Hear is a ____ verb and listen is its ____ counterpart.

Or,

Hear-listen is a pair of ____ words.

3

I think the term you're looking for is volition.

Listen is a volitional verb and hear is its non-volitional counterpart.

When you listen to something, you're paying attention to it on purpose.


Here's how the term is defined in David Crystal's A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, 6th ed.:

volition (n.) A term used in the semantic analysis of grammatical categories, referring to a kind of relationship between an agent and a verb. A volitional verb or construction is one where the action takes place as a consequence of the agent's choice, e.g. Mary left. A non-volitional verb or construction is one where the agent has no determining influence on the action, e.g. Mary slipped. Many verbs allow both interpretations (e.g. X hit Y – accidentally or on purpose?). The notion has also had a contrastive role in the analysis of the meanings of certain auxiliary verbs in English: for example, the volitional sense of will in I will go (in the sense of 'it is my decision to go') is distinguished from other senses, such as characteristic action (They'll sit there for hours).

(p.516)

6

Hear is transitive and in its root sense telic: it requires a direct object, and it ordinarily designates a 'achievement', a change of state: you become aware of something which you were not aware of previously.

Listen is intransitive and atelic: it does not take a direct object (something which is actually heard when you are listening is designated by the object of a preposition), and it ordinarily designates an 'activity', a continuing investment of energy in maintaining a state of awareness.

The terms telic, atelic, achievement and activity are discussed in a little more depth at the tag-wiki on aspect.

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  • 2
    I would have guessed the OP was looking for non-volitional and volitional.
    – user230
    Nov 9 '15 at 0:05
  • 1
    @snailboat Some folks only hear what they wanta hear. Nov 9 '15 at 2:18
  • So, @StoneyB, is the sense of see in I saw the accident telic, where as the sense of see in I've seen the film atelic? (And is watch atelic too?) Nov 9 '15 at 11:55
  • So, @StoneyB, is the sense of see in I saw the accident telic, and the sense of see in I've seen the film atelic? (And is watch atelic too?) Nov 9 '15 at 15:33
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    @snailboat Actually you are right - volition is the concept I am after. I did not look up for linguistic meaning for telicity, only looked at a dictionary explanation for the word telic and thought it meant volitional.
    – NS.X.
    Nov 9 '15 at 20:44

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