NCI Berlin 2018

Workshop on Non Canonical Imperatives, May 25 - 26, 2018

Imperatives have always attracted attention in linguistics and philosophy (Schmerling 1982, Wilson and Sperber 1988, Sadock and Zwicky 1985, Han 2000 a.o.). Particularly over the last decade or so, there has been a growing interest in the study of imperatives per se (Schwager 2006/Kaufmann 2012, Portner 2004, 2007, 2015, Grosz 2009, Condoravdi and Lauer 2012, Roberts 2015, von Fintel and Iatridou 2017 a.o.) but also of speech acts in a broader perspective (Krifka 2013, Lauer 2013 and the references therein).

Much progress has been made in evaluating particular hypotheses regarding the syntax-semantics of imperatives and their similarities or differences from other speech acts. However, there are still many aspects of imperatives that remain under-investigated both in syntax and semantics. The aim of this workshop is to shed more light on two such aspects of imperatives:

  1. Non-canonical” uses of imperative forms which seem to deviate from the meaning/function/syntax of imperatives, e.g. IaDs (see a.o. Han 2000, Kaufmann 2012, Keshet 2013, von Fintel and Iatridou 2017), embedded imperatives (Crnic & Trinh 2008, Kaufmann 2012, Kaufmann & Stegovec 2015, Zanuttini et. al 2012)

  2. Non-imperative forms which seem to have an imperative meaning/function, e.g. infinitives in German (Gärtner 2014), optative constructions (Grosz 2012 and the references therein)

We hope that by investigating these “non-canonical” aspects of imperatives we can gain further insight regarding the analysis of “canonical” imperatives. Moreover, we hope that our workshop can encourage the discussion of cross-linguistic patterns in imperatives which syntactically or semantically deviate from what is known as the imperative in English and other languages. 


Confirmed invited speakers

Hans-Martin Gärtner (Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

Caroline Heycock (University of Edinburgh)

Sabine Iatridou (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Magdalena Kaufmann (University of Connecticut)

Manfred Krifka (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin & ZAS)

Hjalmar Petersen (University of the Faroe Islands)


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Crnič, L. and T. Trinh. 2008. Embedding imperatives. In Proceedings of North East Linguistics Society (NELS) 39.

von Fintel, K. and S. Iatridou. 2017. A modest proposal for the meaning of imperatives. In Ana Arregui, Maria Luisa Rivero & Salanova Andres (eds.), Modality across syntactic categories, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gärtner, H.-M. 2014. On covert modality in German root infinitives. In Proceedings of the 31st West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL). 199–206.

Grosz, P. 2009. German particles, modality, and the semantics of imperatives. In Proceedings of North East Linguistics Society (NELS) 39. 323–336.

Grosz, P. G. 2011. On the grammar of optative constructions. PhD thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Han, C.-h. 1998. The Structure and Interpretation of Imperatives: Mood and Force in Universal

Grammar. PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania.

Huntley, M. 1984. The semantics of English imperatives. Linguistics and Philosophy, 7, 103–134

Keshet, E. 2013. Focus on conditional conjunction. Journal of semantics, 30(2):211–256.

Krifka M. Embedding speech acts. To appear in Recursion in language and cognition, ed. by Tom Roeper and Peggy Speas.

Lauer, S. 2013. Towards a dynamic pragmatics. PhD thesis, Stanford University.

Mastop, R. 2011. Imperatives as semantic primitives. Linguistics and philosophy, 34(4):305-340.

Platzack, C. & I. Rosengren. 1998. On the subject of imperatives: A minimalist account of the imperative clause. The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, 1(3). 177–224.

Portner, P. 2004. The semantics of imperatives within a theory of clause types. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 14. 235–252.

Portner, P. 2007. Imperatives and modals. Natural Language Semantics, 15(4). 351–383.

Ross, A. 1941. Imperatives and logic. Theoria, 25(7), 53–71.

Schmerling, S. 1982. How imperatives are special, and how they aren’t. Papers from the Parasession on Nondeclaratives, Chicago Linguistic Society, 202-218.

Schwager, M. 2006. Interpreting imperatives. PhD thesis, University of Frankfurt.

Stegovec, A. and Kaufmann, M. 2015. Slovenian imperatives: You can’t always embed what you want. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung, 19. 620–637.

Zanuttini, R. 2008. Encoding the addressee in the syntax: Evidence from English imperative subjects. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 26(1):185–218.

Zanuttini, R., M. Pak, and P. Portner. 2012. A syntactic analysis of interpretive restrictions on imperative, promissive, and exhortative subjects. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 30(4):1231–1274.