Recall that if an entity wants to achieve a certain outcome, yet is impeded by some force, this situation can be encoded by a barrier verb in English, such as prevent, ban, protect.
Barrier Verbs and Aktionsart
Part of the semantic interpretation of barrier verbs involves event duration. Barrier verbs typically represent states (i.e., the temporal extent of the negated event is presupposed to have no necessary end boundary). Dowty described some basic tests for determining the Aktionsart class of a verb in a sentence. These now classic tests include the “occurs with X for an hour, spend an hour Xing” test for states and activities. However, some barrier verbs more readily allow a for an hour duration phrase than others.
For example, detain allows for an hour readily, but ban is less acceptable (to my American English speaking ears):
a. John was detained from entering Canada for an hour.Although (b) is neither strictly ungrammatical nor strictly unacceptable, it intuitively seems like less of a default association between the stative event that the verb ban evokes and the duration phrase. I will stipulate, however, that (b) may be more acceptable to British speakers than American English speakers.
b. ?John was banned from entering Canada for an hour.
The verb detain seems to suggest a temporary state. However, none of these barrier verbs is strictly telic, as the in an hour test shows:
c. *John was detained from entering Canada in an hour.This is truly a fine grained semantic distinction requiring much more detailed analysis.
d. *John was banned from entering Canada in an hour.