Imperatives in a dynamic pragmatics

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Craige Roberts


I offer a semantics and dynamic pragmatics for imperative grammatical mood. The semantic content of an imperative clause amounts to realization conditions in the form of a de se property indexed to the addressee, which involves a circumstantial, futurate modal. Second person indexicality facilitates an empirically superior novel account of the semantic contributions of overt imperative subjects, as in nobody move!.

The often-attested deontic flavor of imperative modality is not semantic, nor is directive force itself; rather, these arise from the canonical pragmatic role of imperatives: updating a distinguished body of shared information G in the context of utterance. Unlike the CommonGround — consisting of propositions which the interlocutors (purport to) believe, and the QUD — the questions which they are committed to resolving, G consists of the publicly evident goals of the interlocutors, organized to reflect their plans and priorities. G is updated by and influences the understood meaningnn of an imperative utterance, including how its Kratzerian ModalBase and OrderingSource are derived.

Thus, the account shares features with the most prominent recent theories of imperative semantics (especially Charlow’s use of plans, Kaufmann’s modality, and Portner’s dynamic pragmatics), but differs from all in its empirical adequacy and in the way that it distinguishes semantic from pragmatic features of imperative utterances.


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