Topic: HUMAN SEMANTICS
The Semantics of Imperatives within a Theory of Clause Typesby Paul Portner
Though individual clause types - especially declaratives, interrogatives, and imperatives - have been studied extensively, there is less work on clause type systems.1 This is so despite the fact that clause type systems have properties which suggest that they will prove revealing concerning the nature of Universal Grammar. For example, we may ask:
(1) a. Why are some clause types (declaratives, interrogatives, and
b. Why are some clause types possible but not universal (e.g.,
exclamatives and promissives)?
c. Why are some intuitively plausible clause types in fact not attested, and perhaps not possible (e.g., "threatatives" and "warnatives")?
The contrast between imperatives and promissives brings out the issue well. These two types are functionally very similar: An imperative places a requirement on the addressee, while a promissive places a requirement on the speaker. Yet imperatives are apparently universal (and at least extremely common), while promissives are extremely rare. It does not seem easy to give a functional explanation for this contrast, and so in is reasonable to inquire into whether an explanation in terms of syntactic or semantic theory is possible. (...)
Source: The Semantics Archive
Posted by Tony Marmo at 08:30 BST
Updated: Monday, 30 August 2004 01:54 BST