Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford / Göttingen)

Imperative force

(Joint work with Sven Lauer, University of Konstanz)


For any clause type, a basic question is how its conventional meaning
contribution can be divided between the compositionally determined
denotation and the conventionally determined context change
effect. Another question is to what extent the range of illocutionary
forces associated with a clause type are to be attributed to its
conventional meaning and to what extent to properties of the context
and pragmatic reasoning. For imperatives these questions are
particularly vexing, given the heterogeneity of illocutionary forces
associated with their use, only some of which are properly directive.

Taking as a starting point a conception of force in terms of
commitments, the talk presents an analysis of imperatives as creating
preferential commitments. The analysis is shown to derive the various
types of uses and to explain the communicative equivalence of
imperatives with necessity modals in some uses and with possibility
modals in others. Moreover, the analysis can explain an interesting
asymmetry between modals and imperatives: while modals can be used to
give advice on why a certain goal should be rescinded given the facts
of the matter, imperatives cannot.