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The imperative and pragmatics


WILLIAM DOWNES

School of Englishand AmericanStudies, Universityof East Anglia (Received 13 July 1976) This article is a tentative explorationof the following question. In an account of the imperative construction in English, what should be accounted for in the In the literature,we find desyntax or semanticsand what in the pragmatics?1 scriptions of an imperativeconstructionwith certainspecificsyntacticproperties. For example, there is a subjectless form and also a form with a second person pronominal subject and correspondingto both there are second person pronominal forms in reflexiveand tag counterparts.Abstractunderlyingstructures, in this case a you subject, which subsequently may be deleted by IMPERATIVE or EQUI, are postulatedto explain these properties(Postal, I964; Katz & Postal, I964: 75; McCawley, I968). My question is: if we postulatea generalpragmatic theory, that is, a theory of the use of utterancesin context (separatefrom but related to theories about the syntactic or semantic properties of sentences), how many of the properties of the imperativecan be explained in such terms My conclusionis that the proposedabstract instead of in the syntax orsemantics? structures are syntacticallyand semanticallyunmotivated and unnecessaryfor pragmatic interpretation.Each property that the abstract elements explain is better explained either as a non-arbitraryproperty of main clause infinitives in that the facts could not when they are used to utter commands(non-arbitrary be otherwise), or inherent propertiesof main clause infinitives in all their uses. In the former case at least, they are facts about men in situations, not about syntax. Thus, syntax and semantics requireonly a single level of representation and there is no imperativetransformation.In fact, what I am suggesting is that the proposal that Sadock (1974: 77) calls 'the surface meaning hypothesis' or what Ross (1970: 254) calls 'the pragmaticanalysis'providesa plausibleaccount of the imperativeconstructionitself. It is necessary, first of all, to distinguish between the illocutionarypotential of the construction,that is the range of illocutionaryacts it can be used to perform, and the grammaticalconstructionitself. In fact, almost any sentence type can be used to performa great variety of acts. There are numerouscases where
[i]

This paper was read at the 1976 Spring Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain in Edinburgh and an earlier somewhat different paper on the same subject was presented at the Second Systemic Theory Workshop held at the University of Essex in July 1975. I would like to thank the participants at both meetings for their questions, criticisms and suggestions and, in particular, Jean Aitchison and Dick Hudson for their detailed comments on the earlier version of this paper.

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infinitive constructions either identical to the imperative or very similar to it can be used to perform utterances which are not commands. I will merely list some examples. There are WISH IMPERATIVES, Sleep zvell (Stockwell, Schachter & Partee, I973: 637); PERMISSION IMPERATIVES, Come home at three in the morning (if you like) (Stockwell et al, I973; 637); HYPOTHETICAL INFINITIVES, Marry an American; never. John be rude; that isn't like him (Bolinger, I967: 352); REPLIES IN CONTEXT, He doesn't know what to do. Make a fresh start; that's what I'd do (Bolinger, I967: 353); and CONDITIONAL CONSTRUCTIONS which may be REQUESTS, PROMISES, THREATS, WARNINGS or simply ASSERTIONS of general truths: Step in now (and) the doctor will see you. Come here (and) I'll give you a pound. Be our candidate (and) we'll obviously win. Join the navy (and) see the world. Defy your boss (and) you'll get sacked. Eat too much candy (and) you'll be sick. Try to please somebody (and) all you'll get is disappointed. Bolinger (I967: 343) shows clearly that in spite of the diverse illocutionary potential of these conditional forms, all the cases have grammatical properties with regard to be which are peculiar to the imperative. Sadock (I974: 139 ff.) also notes INSTRUCTION uses of the construction in manuals, recipes and labels. Huddleston (197I: 59) remarks on the distinct force of SUPPOSE clauses in scientific English ('Suppose there are n molecules. . .') and, of course, there is BEGGING, PLEADING and so on. I believe that whatever differences can be observed in the construction in this diversity of uses can be accounted for as reflexes of the use. For example, the absence of direct objects in LABELS, Shake well before using,
is explained by Sadock (1974: I41) by noting that the object must refer '. . . to the item to which the label is affixed, or to the contents . . .'. This is hardly a

syntactic or semantic rule but a contextual utterance constraint. Although the non-command uses of main clause infinitives is not as wide as, say, grammatical declaratives, it is considerable. However, I think that there is no inherent grammatical or semantic property common to the uses which might motivate some abstract morpheme like IMPERE (Sadock, I974: 15I) to link them. What they have in common is the predication of a hypothetical act of a contextually specifiable subject (see below) and this information is all available in the surface structure. Conversely, practically any sentence in English, that does not contradict the preconditions on commanding, can be used to utter a command. The pragmatic theory needed to account for this will require at least two parts. One part will be statements of the sort worked out by Searle (I969) regarding the speaker's beliefs about preconditions that must be met in the situation before an utterance can 'happily' perform a given intention; for example, in the case at hand, that 78

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the 'Heareris able to do the act' and 'the speakerbelieves the heareris able to do the act'. The second part will be a set of statements including Grice's (I968) 'co-operative principle' and its maxims, such as 'Be relevant': these together generateargumentswhich allow the speakerto rationallyintend that the hearer can infer that Your water is lovely and hot now. might mean, Turnoff the waterheateror Get into the tub or Do the dishesor an indeterminatenumberof other commandsdependingon the context of the utterance. Alternatively,of course, the speakermight only be asserting his belief in the truth of the proposition. Note that Labov's attempts to formulate rules of discourse requirereferenceto two such parts (Labov, I972: 297-306). Since the content of this theory is so clearly utterancesin context it is obvious that it is a theory of utterance, or more generally 'sign' use, and not about the linguistic system. Indeed, it can account for the interpretationof gestures, abstractroad signs or the 'meaning' of a box of soap placed next to a pile of dirty laundry. Also, a pragmatictheory must take cognizanceof varioushigher level contextual

factors(Labov,1972:

30I;

Turner,1970:

205;

Lakoff,R., 1972:

9IO).

Thus,

whether an utterancesuch as the above example is more likely to be taken as a command or an assertion in some context may depend on whether the participants have negotiateda mutualaim that they are havingan argumentor performing a task or just chatting. It also will depend on norms invokedby the utterance being part of a mutually recognized speech event, the social relation of the participants,and, as well, possible placementsof the utterancein conversational structure, say, as a 'pre-closing' (Schegloff & Sacks, I974: 246). Constraints imposed by such factorsare clearly 'in the air' or context and are neithersyntactic or semantic. However, the constructions with command illocutionary potential can be placed on a scale of illocutionary opacity.2 Where a construction appears on such a scale depends on the absence or presence of an argument linking the inferredforce and the sentence used to performthe utteranceand, further,if an argument is present, how conventionalizedit is. At one end of the scale are
OVERT PERFORMATIVE formulas

which require only that the preconditions be met.

Next, we have IMPERATIVES which must be tested against a range of alternative preconditions some of which were mentioned above. Next, are PEREMPTORY DECLARATIVES such as You will close the windowand similar forms in can and,
then, the corresponding interrogatives,
REQUESTS or WHIMPERATIVES:

Will

you close the window?

[2] Peter Wexler has pointed out to me that Benthamin Of laws in general(1782) arranges

the form of commands '. . . in such a mannerthat the mode of expression grows gradually moreandmoreunexplicit or oblique...'. 79

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which requireonly a simple conventionalargumentinvolving the preconditions. More opaque types are interrogativesand declarativesWITH RELEVANT PROPOSIhome? TIONAL CONTENT, Whenare you coming ('Come home'), You'rethe man to fix my radio ('Fix my radio') and finally all those cases where the PROPOSITION MUST BE INFERRED, for example, Yourwateris lovelyand hot nowwhich, as noted above, might mean Turnoff the waterheateror Do the dishesand so on. At this end of the scale, practicallyany sentence can be said to have the illocutionary potential of commandingin some context. Overt markersof commandforce like please or kindly can only occur where the indirection is conversationallyirrelevant, and can serve to mitigate the command. In opaque forms, the indirection itself serves this (and other) conversationalpurposes by allowing the hearerthe latitude to feign misunderstanding,topically deflect or otherwise reply to the command or its preconditions,and pleasewould give the game away by overtly markingthe speaker'sintention.
S
(NP) VP

wash

Figure

I.

Surface structure analysis.

S Pre S
IMP

NP
N

AUX
TNS M

VP
V

you pres. will

wash

Figure

2.

Syntactic deep structure analysis.

It is clear that at the non-opaqueend of the scale, the constructionitself must either, as in the case of unambiguous overt performatives,overtly encode the preconditionson commanding,or, at least, be overtly compatiblewith the preconditions. Since the imperative,unlike the performative,has a range of other uses, overt compatibility with the preconditions on commanding is all that is logically requiredfor it to be relativelynon-opaquein this use. In the light of the above discussion, let us examine three possible linguistic analysesof the imperativeconstruction;the SURFACE STRUCTURE ANALYSIS, Figure I, the Katz and Postal syntactic DEEP STRUCTURE ANALYSIS, Figure 2 (Katz & Postal, I964: 74-79) and the PERFORMATIVE ANALYSIS, Figure 3 (Ross, 1970: 8o

THE IMPERATIVE AND PRAGMATICS

NP

AUX

VP

NlP N

AUJX TNS

VP

//\
will

I
wash

you

pres.

Figure 3. Performative analysis.

223; McCawley, I968: 155-I6I; Lakoff, 1971: 284; Sadock, 1974). I think it can be plausibly argued that the surface structure analysis is to be preferred and that the latter two analyses run into considerable difficulties. I will present four arguments to support this claim.

i.

THE

SUBJECT

OF IMPERATIVES

Consider the problem of the subject of imperatives. The arguments in support of an underlying you subject are well known. However, as soon as the data of third person subjects is examined difficulties arise. Thus, we get a range of indefinite third person pronouns and other deictic subjects. For example:
F

Anybody Everybody
Whoever Those All those (who) want(s) to eat now, wash (yourselves themselves I first.
f

etc.
As well, a wide range of other NP's commonly occur as subjects of imperatives:
r

The oldest of the girls )

their

The boys your stop writing now The boy in the corner his All the children in Cthemselves. the front row and washt yourselves. J etc. J Lhimself.

Suggestions have been made (Stockwell et al, 1973: 643 ff.; Huddleston, 197I: 56) that such sentences are derived from an underlying second person 8i

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partitive construction, of you, or among you, with a third person NP subject. However, as Stockwellet al (I973, 643 ff.) point out, there is no standardtheory

deep structurewhich would be well formed for all cases. Thus, for example: *The boy in the corner among ~of you stand up.

is ill formed. Thorne (I966) has also attemptedto locate a single grammatical source for the subjects of imperatives. He proposes that the surface subjects of all imperative sentences must be vocative. To the degree that this requirementis simply a way of statingthat they must referto the addresseethen his claim is exactlyequivalent to a pragmaticconstraint(see below). If, however, the feature [+ vocative] is to define a natural and coherent grammaticalclass, then there are obvious difficulties in accounting for the distribution of you which require some fairly arbitrarydevices. For example,you is claimed to be the vocative 'form' of third person pronouns. Thorne is also forced to assert that somebody is the 'reduced' form of a 'full' vocative * You somebody to account for the ungrammaticality of the latter. The use of terms like 'form of', 'full' and 'reduced' is required to produce a single plausible underlying source of imperativesubjects, given the heterogeneity of the class involved. Furthermore, claiming that you is the vocativeform of the definitearticleexcludes sentences like Theboys hand in their work nowfrom being imperative;a judgment with which I cannot agree. Finally, Thorne's claim that subjeetless imperatives such as Washhave underlying subjects which are the 'reduced' vocative forms of the indefinite pronoun (i.e. Somebody wash) predicts, as Huddleston notes, that Washand You wash '. . . differ with respect of the definitenessof the underlyingsubject (you in the latter deriving from a definite pronoun). . .' (Huddleston, 197I: 50). But this is not the case: the addresseeof Wash may be no less definite than that of You wash.I believe Stockwell's claim that there is no single standardtheory deep structurefor all cases is well founded. Another possibility would be to generate a pre-subject vocative you NP in deep structurewhich would account for the second person reflexivesabove and which can occur, with a separatetone group, in the surface of non-pronominal or diectic third person imperatives. /You/ the boy in the corner stand up/. This doesn't account for the ungrammaticality of */You/ Everybody whowants to eatnow,wash yourselves first/,and there is a furtherdifficultywith this analysis I'll return to in a moment. The fact of the matter is that the subject NP must refer to the hearer of the utterance,the addressee.Any NP whateverthat does not exclude this interpretation can be the subject of an imperative. (That these third person NPs are
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subjects is shown by the distributionof NEG, for example, Don't the boysleave the room just yet.) Thus, what must be explainedis not a linguistic constraintor class but a fact about participantrelations.There is a major naturalgrammatical discontinuity between grammaticalpatterning and pragmaticconstraints here. This implies that one will find no single syntactic class to act as deep structure subject containing a markerof grammaticalsecond person, although there are scatteredcorrelatesof the pragmaticconstraintevinced by the behaviourof you
in imperatives.

The surface structureanalysis would leave the subject of imperativesunconstrained,including 0. That the heareris the one who is to do the actionis already stated in the preconditionsand a pragmaticrule would note, that, if the other preconditionson commandingaremet, then the subjectof a main clauseinfinitive would be interpretedas the intended hearerif it can be. Indeed, this is a functional explanationof subjectless imperatives.To supply a subject if there is no good reason would be conversationallyredundantand breakthe 'Don't supply more informationthan is necessary' Gricean maxim. Note that in those cases where a subject is supplied it is with good reason and the hearercan infer that some conversationalpurpose is served, either to specify the addressee'sidentity where this is required, All thosewho. . ., or contrastively, YOU go next, or to serve a persuasivefunction of some kind, for example, Comeon - you give it a try. A pragmaticrule such as the one proposed is congruent with the notion of 'perceptualstrategies',see, for example, Bever (1970) and also George Lakoff's current interest on the relation of grammaticalrules and general 'processing principles' (Lecture at University College London, 14 June 1976). This account also provides a natural source for the tension between third person and second person reflexiveand possessive pronounsin the above examples. Syntactically,theirand themselves are anaphoricto the third person subject NP. Pragmatically, your and yourselves are situationallyanaphoricto the hearer, who is being addressed, and therefore is referredto by you as in declaratives. This fluctuationof second and third person reflexiveand possessive pronounsis further evidence against the proposal, mentioned above, that a pre-subject vocativeyou is in the deep structureof all imperativesand accounts for second person pronouns with third person subjects. Such a you would automatically prevent third person pronouns from ever occurringsince */You/ the students in the corner stop writing their essays and wash themselves now/.
is ungrammatical.

It might be argued that a pragmaticexplanation of second person reflexive imperatives without syntactic antecedents is too theoretically costly since it means abandoning REFLEXIVE, with its syntactic clause mate condition, a rule which is crucialfor many majorsyntacticarguments.To save the rule, one might 83

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assume that reflexivepronouns never occur without a syntactic antecedent,and use overtly antecedentlessreflexivesto motivateunderlyingantecedents.In fact, this is the form Ross' (I970) arguments involving reflexives take. Since any reflexive pronoun can occur with main clause infinitives without an overt syntactic antecedent, for example, Wash himself, herself, myself, etc. as echoes, hypothetical infinitives, or exclamatives,this assumption motivates underlying representations such as, Did you say, suggest,hint etc. that Xi washXi; I exclaim that I am surprised (that you said) that Xi washXi etc. It seems to me that the more intuitively satisfyingapproachwould be to keep the syntactic reflexive rule in those cases where clause mates do occur, but, in the case of main clause infinitives to permit the generation of antecedentless reflexive pronouns. These pronouns will then trigger a search of context for a possible non-linguistic antecedent.My contention is that the pragmaticanalysis explainsthe contextualnatureof the facts, does no violence to the use of abstract entities in syntax and is probablycloser to what happens psychologically. The pragmaticrule I mentioned is very general. Furtherevidence that it does not belong in a specificallylinguistictheory is that it appliesto gesturesand other signallingsystems. Take 'beckoning'as a non-linguisticcommand;one can point to the addressee,then beckon, or, if the intended addresseeis clear,just beckon. Similarly,if one sees a red stop light, and the preconditionson commandingare met, one knows that it is oneself, the observer,that the trafficauthoritiesintend to stop. It could even be suggested, I think, that babies and pet dogs (when beckoned to) might know that they are intended to do the act in the absence of other plausible addressees.All this suggests that one is dealing with something quite apart from the languagesystem. The performativeanalysis deals with the subject of imperativesbeing constrained to the addresseein terms of the required identity of the direct object NP you of the performativeverb order and the subject you of the embedded sentence. The latteryou is then deleted by Equi (McCawley, I968: I56). However, Schmerling(I 975) points out that subjectlessimperativescannot be derived by the applicationof Equi as McCawley claims. Even if we grant that Equi can apply, it is hard to see how lexical insertion into direct object and embedded subject NPs can be constrainedto exclude those third person NPs which cannot be addressees, even in the light of McCawley's (I968; 197I) proposalsfor abstract representationof intended referents.How can lexical materialbe marked as referringto a possible addressee? A head noun might be a plausible addressee but the factor excluding the NP might be in a modifying phrase: ?The girl who can't hear me come here. ?The baby girl come here. ?*My ambassadorto you come here. ?The woman who was most influentialin Cromwell'stime come here. *A certain girl come here. 84

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Secondly, whether or not an NP can refer to a hearer is often dependent on speaker'sjudgments and thus is non-linguistic and contingent. Thirdly, surface properties such as length may make NP's implausible addressees. If, on the other hand, the semantic representation is to permit as semanticallywell-formed any NP in object and embeddedsubjectposition and simply defineit as intended addressee, then some further interpretationof this representationwill be required to exclude NP's which cannot be addressees.This is consistent with the current generative semantics position (Seuren, 1974) and perhaps would be accomplishedby adjudgingwell-formednessrelative to 'pragmatic'presuppositions (Lakoff, 197ia; Keenan, 197I: 49; Stalnaker, 1972). But this, however, would simply duplicatethe statementof the non-linguistic pragmaticconstraints I suggested and can be done as easily from the surface structure.
2. THE UNDERLYING MODAL, 'WILL

Secondly, consider the underlyingpres.+ will. The argumentsfor this are also familiar.I shall mention only two problemswith this proposedunderlyingform. The first difficultyarises because, as is well known, four modals can appearin tagged imperatives:

Wash0

9 can't you. rl
would you. could you. J

won't you.

Since this is the case, following the logic of the argumentfrom tags, it would be necessary to permit any of these modals to be generated in the underlying structure of imperatives. This would mean that an imperative like Wash might have as its source any of the four alternatives:Youcan/will/would/could/ wash. Since can and will have clearly different meanings, this predicts that Washis potentially at least two ways ambiguous. But Washis unambiguous. The second point has to do with the futurity of imperatives. As Bolinger (I967: 338) points out: 'If a command is an order that is to be carriedout, it is necessarilyunderstoodas referringto the future- futurityis partof the definition of "command".'This is reflectedin Searle's propositionalcontent rule. For a device to be a request, it must refer to a 'future Act of Hearer'. The point is in line with my previous comments; since this is a condition which must exist in the situationfor ANY device(gestures,stoplights,etc.) to performa command,it is hardly necessary to representit in the syntax. Bolinger continues, '. . . Katz and Postal's emphasis on will becomes not a desire to prove that commands refer to the future but simply an interest in detecting the underlying linguistic correlate of futurity'. But will is not the only possible linguistic correlate of futurity; for example, there is going to and are to. 85

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However, it may NOT be the case that imperativesare restrictedto future time reference(Bolinger, I967: 348 ff.). The crucialconditionmay be that the speaker does not know that the act has been carriedout or carriedout in a certain way. We might say that imperativesare incompatiblewith 'verifiedby speaker'past time reference.Since verificationincludes future time (one cannot verify an act yet to be performed), the more general constraint on imperatives is that the act must be unverifiedby the speakeror hypothetical as far as the speaker is concerned. Thus, one finds imperativesreferringto acts which have been completed or might have been completed in past time but which the speakerhas not verified, for example: Don't have hit your head, please. (Parentupon hearinga crash in back room.) or to present time: Have a present daddy, please. Be thinking nice thoughts about me. The important feature is hypotheticalness. Since the bare infinitive has this property in all its uses, the contention that the imperativeis the bare infinitive used to command is quite as plausibleas the underlyingwill analysis. However, I would like to maintain Searle's futurity preconditionfor true commands and call the above 'wishes'. But, since all that was requiredof imperativeswas that they be compatible with the preconditionsand since hypothetical acts include all future acts, the linguistic correlateof the futurity preconditionis the inherent hypotheticalpropertyof infinitivesand the surface structureanalysisrepresents this property. It is worth noting as well at this point that this preconditionalso automatically excludes time adverbialslike yesterdayfrom a non-opaquecommand: *I order you to come yesterday. *Wash yesterday. *Can you wash yesterday? *Will you wash yesterday? IMP

3.

AND

THE

UNDERLYING

PERFORMATIVE

Let us consider some argumentswhich can be used to justify the abstractIMP morpheme or the underlying performativeorder.There are two kinds of argument. First, both analyseswould disambiguatesentences like: You will go home. 86

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as between a 'command'and a 'prediction'reading (Boyd & Thorne, I969: 63) (granted that one accepts the argumentsfor underlying will in the first place). Secondly, there is a range of argumentsbased on the observation that certain sentence adverbialslike maybe,perhapsand certainly,negative preverbssuch as scarcely,hardly,etc., and classes of verb, namely statives like want, hope,believe, understand,etc., don't occur in imperatives. Katz and Postal explain this in termsof co-occurrencerestrictionswith the underlyingIMP and the performative analysis excludes these automaticallysince the same restrictionsobtain with the higher performativeorder. Let us considerthe ambiguityquestionfirst. I would arguethat a sentence like Youwillgo homeis SEMANTICALLY only the predicationof a future act of a subject which could be the hearer. An obvious illocutionaryforce of the utterance of such a sentence would be that the speakeris asserting that he believes that the proposition is true, that is, he is making a prediction. Now it is, I believe, a generalpropertyof predictionsthat they can be furtherinterpretedas commands by pragmaticrules. This is the case either if the subjectis the addresseeor if the hearerbelieves that the future state of affairspredictedis somehow his responsibility as, for example, in a sentence like Thesescriptswill be marked by Thursday in an instance where the hearer is a teacher with responsibilityfor correcting scripts and the speakeris his superior.A hearermust test the semantic predication of some future state of affairsagainstboth predictionand, if prediction,then furtheragainstcommandpreconditions,if he judges that he is cruciallyinvolved in the truth of the prediction. Thus a predictionby a speakerthat might requirean otherwiseunintendedact of the hearerto be performedif it is to be true can be interpretedby the hearer as an attemptto get him to do the act, since the speakeris assertingthat he unequivocallyknows the future behaviourof the hearer, perhaps by virtue of his authority. If the hearerdoes not do the act, he puts the speakerin the position of having uttered an untrue sentence and makes the speaker look the fool, making unwarrantedpredictions about the hearer and his actions. Of course, face can be renegotiatedin a number of ways. For example, either the speaker can retroactivelyreinterprethis intention as merely having made a prediction about the hearer,which could be wrong, or the hearercan misinterpretor feign interpretationof the utterance as a prediction and thus, more or less tactfully, refuse to admit the speaker'sknowledge and authority.The key factors are the relationshipof the speakerand hearerand the content of the propositiongiven the situation. A direct performativerepresentationof our example such as: s[I order you s[you will go home]] obscures this, 'commandingby predicting' step. My claim, then, is that such sentences are inherently only predicationsof a future act of some subject and 87

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are semantically unambiguous, but can be interpreted as either commands or predictions following conversational rules. This proposal captures the point made by both Lyons (I966: 120) and Huddleston (I97I: 5I) that sentences like You will go homeare vague rather than clearly ambiguous. Therefore, the abstract representationof commanding in underlying structure is unmotivated syntactically and semantically. For a somewhat different formulation of the conversationalinterpretationof statements or questions see Gordon & Lakoff and Labov (I972: 304). As noted above, conversationalrules are cer(I97I) tainly required elsewhere to account for the more opaque commands and this proposal merely extends them to PEREMPTORY DECLARATIVES. Note also that no one suggests that an underlying performativeorderunderliesall commands, for example, Yourwateris lovelyand hot now.And, if they did, the commandpotential of practically any declarative would conclusively refute the performative analysis (Sadock, I974: 77). Evidence for viewing sentences like Youwill go homeas cases of 'commanding by predicting'is providedby a very interestingpropertyof the ambiguity;that is, the ambiguity is LOP-SIDED dependingon the 'obviousness' of the propositional
content in relation to the preconditions in context. That is, if the propositional content is of the sort that a speaker, in that context, might not be able to or want to order the hearer to do or the hearer might not be able to do, then the favoured interpretation will be the prediction, although in other contexts the same content might be more plausibly a command. For example, compare A and B:

DECONTEXTUALIZED

rgo home go home1


A You will . carry out the garbage J open the window

e. likcton prediction

likely command, possible

You will get a job in Canada next

likely prediction, command

possible

The favoured interpretation will shift depending on context. B, for example, could be a likely command in the specific context of an intelligence officer being given instructions. This property is even clearer with WHIMPERATIVES; contrast C and D. (For a full discussion of whimperatives see Green, 1975.) 88

THE IMPERATIVE AND PRAGMATICS

DECONTEXTUALIZED
{go

home

likely command, possible

Can you i carryout the garbage the window Copen

question qei

Can you get a job in Canada next?

likely question, possible command

In this case, the ambiguitywill lean towards the command as opposed to the question interpretationdepending on the 'obviousness'to both the speakerand the hearerthat the propositionis true, given the context, and the only rational answer is 'yes'. I call this a pseudo-question because it doesn't meet the precondition for questioning, namely, that the speaker 'doesn't believe that the proposition is true, but does believe it may be true' (Hudson, 1975: 7, quoting Katz, 1972: 2IO). On the contrary,in the command reading of whimperatives the speakerdoes believe the propositionis true. The function of the questionis to drawthe hearer'sattentionto this fact (i.e. that the speakerbelieves the proposition is true in the situation); and thereforethe ability preconditionis 'obviously' met - thus 'commandingby questioning'. Note then that the favouring of one interpretation,which will be a question of degree depending on the agreement of speakerand hearer on what is 'obviously' true in context, has nothing to do with the constructionitself, but with the content of the utterancerelativeto the participants'beliefs. This, it seems to me, is evidence against Sadock'sposition that whimperativeshave an inherent imperativesemantic propertywhich must

be represented in underlying structure(Sadock,I974:

104).

The command

potential varies with content and speaker'sand hearer'sbelief of its truth from specific situation to specific situation. C, for example, would have the favoured interpretation of a questionif the hearerwas aged or frailand could not obviously carryout garbage,etc. Most of the discussionsof this areaemploy only examples which are easily interpretableas commands when decontextualized,and this, of course, obscures the inherent lop-sidedness of the construction. Sadock advances the interesting hypothesis that certain indirect speech acts like whimperatives, although originally requiring interpretation, acquire an inherentcommandsemanticproperty,by a processanalogousto idiom formation, and show formal features relating to that property (Sadock, 1974: 97 ff.). It would follow that hearers interpret can you and will you as overt markers of commandforce and thereforedo not have to reasonout the 'use' from the 'meaning' as I proposed above. It is certainly true that the reasoningitself is highly 89

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conventionalized,thus: 'S asks a question about my ability to do A. Of course, I CAN obviously do A in this context. S must know this so he can't be requesting information.ThereforeS must be drawingmy attentionto the fact that he believes the ability preconditionon commandsis met. The only reasonwhy S would do this is that S wants me to do A.' However, I would suggest that this conventionalized reasoningmust be operativewith whimperativessince the interpretation the hearerarrivesat is contingent on his beliefs about the content in context. He must evaluate the semantic content against both possible illocutionary interpretationsin any instanceand can only do this by going throughthe interpretative procedure,just as he does with the more opaque, less conventionalizedforms. Therefore, conversational rules must necessarily be involved in the correct interpretationof requests or whimperativesand an underlying markerof command force would be misleadingjust as it is in the peremptorydeclarativecase. Let us turn to the argumentsthat have to do with constraints on classes of items, sentence adverbials and so on. I would suggest that these constraints might be explainedby the interactionbetween the preconditionsand the semantics of the particularitems in question. Consider,for example,just maybeand perhaps.The items occur in you will... declarativesbut not in the correspondingimperatives,so: f maybe maybe
*

perhaps
maybe perhaps

you will come tomorrow come tomorrow

Let us agree that the first exampleshave command potentialand also prediction potential, the command force being somewhat mitigated by the adverbial. In declaratives perhapsand mayberelate to the speaker'sbeliefs about the truth of the proposition. If I say Perhaps/maybe the telephone is broken, what I am saying is that I do not certainly believe that it is the case. I require more evidence, perhaps from you, regardingwhether the phone is broken or not, so view my utterance as an hypothesis which may be true or false. As such, it is clear that perhapsand maybeare congruent with predictions. It simply weakens the conviction of the predictionsomewhatand would be incompatiblewith a prediction which a speakerfirmly believed to be the case, compare: Perhaps, men will go to the stars someday. ?Perhaps,the sun will rise tomorrow. In the you will... sentences, we have seen that the adverbialsare quite compatible with a prediction reading, but why should they be so with a command reading?When perhapsor maybeare appendedto predictionsabout a future act of the hearer, the speakerclaims less authoritativeknowledge about the hearer aindhis acts and correspondinglythe heareris, or appearsto be, less bound to
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do the act. The speaker is asserting that he is less sure the hearer will do the act, thus, the speakeris speakingwith less authorityabout what the hearerwill do and the hearerappearsfreer to do otherwise. Hedge the prediction and you mitigate the command. The occurrenceof these adverbialswith You will. . . forms is an effect of and furtherevidence for the fact that, even when commanding,they are still predictions. The adverbsco-occurwith predictionsand arecarriedover to commanding by predicting. The sentence type is not inherently a command. Similarly with whimperatives,at least with perhaps. cwil you, perhaps, open the door?

A reasonwhy perhapsand maybeonly marginallycould occur with imperative or overt performativecommand is that they are incompatiblewith the essential condition, 'counts as an attempt to get the hearerto do the act'. If the action is 'perhaps' or 'maybe' to be performedthe speaker can hardly bind the hearer to do it. Another possibility lies in the fact that overt performatives(and this would carry over to imperativessince, although they perform a variety of acts, they cannot assert)cannot be true or false (Austin, i962: 5). Since, in assertions maybeand perhapsrelateto the speaker'sassessmentof his belief in the truth of the proposition and since commands cannot be true or false, the items are excluded. In both arguments,it is pragmaticconsiderationsthat exclude the items. Another fact might be noted here. As far as I know, in many of the other uses of main clause infinitives maybeand perhaps,and also scarcelyand hardly are also excluded. Thus, in a clear example of a warning: Perhabp Mf defy your boss and you'll get sacked. defy your boss and you'll get sacked.

~fHardly
(Scrly

and similarly for some complement sentences:


{

*Johnwantedto

scarcely hardlyI maybe

perhaps speak.

Thus, whatever accounts for the co-occurrenceof these items and infinitivesit can hardly be just an underlyingmarkerof command force. There are also clear problems with the argument based on the supposed exclusion of stative verbs, like hope, want, understand and so on. In the first place such a constraintwouldsimplyduplicatethe abilityprecondition;one cannot ordersomeoneto do somethingthey arenot able to do. But more importantis the fact that these verbs cannot be excluded under this condition since whether or 9I

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not the ability preconditionis met or not is contingent on the speaker'sbeliefs and this will vary socially in unpredictableways. For many speakers, Hope for salvation, my child. Believe the promises God made you. Want to succeed with all your heart. Hope for success. are perfectly 'happy'. It depends on the speaker's beliefs about the hearers ability to control his inner life. Underlying structures can't be motivated by contingent non-linguistic facts about beliefs.
4.
SOME FALSE PREDICTIONS

In considering the performativeanalysis, Wilson (1975: 9 ff.) has noted two false predictions that follow from deriving imperatives from underlying performatives.On the one hand, if imperativesare restrictedso that they are derived from a single illocutionaryverb, for example, order,such that all imperativesare construedas orders,then a sentence such as, Try someof this cakeI've bakedand that's NOT an order,will be predictedto be contradictory,but it is not. Clearly Try someof this cakeI've bakedis congruentwith the preconditionson a number of illocutionaryacts and it is thereforepossible to deny that it is intended to be any of those acts (except one) in the same sentence without contradiction. On the other hand, given that Eat the cakemight be paraphrased by a complement sentence containingany one of a number of performativeverbs other than order,for example, request,advise, beg,plead, suggestand so on, Wilson argues that, 'if the matrix performativemay be any of these, an imperative... will be predicted as multiply ambiguous, having a different reading for each possible speech act it may be used to perform'. But Eat the cake is not ambiguous. Wilson's intuition is that listenersmay be sure that they know what Eat the cake means and may also be sure that it is not ambiguous, although they might not be sure of the exact force that it was intended to convey. Facts such as these can be accounted for naturallyin the pragmaticanalysis. A number of acts such as beg, plead, request, order, etc., may all have 'it in common that they count as attempts to get the hearerto do the act (or involve recommendingthat the hearerdo the act, see 'advise', Searle, I969: 67) and the hearer may unambiguouslyperceive that intention. More delicately, however, other preconditions are involved to distinguish, for example, ordering from requestingfrom pleading. For example, orderingmay involve 'by virtue of the authority of the speaker' in contrast to requesting. Thus, in some contexts, although the hearer may know that the utterance unambiguouslycounts as an attempt to get him to do the act, the exact force may be subject to negotiation, or social judgments of relative authorityin that context or left purposelyvague
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either because it is irrelevantor to leave social relations uninvoked. Indeed, I think the linguistic realizationof pleading is iterative,A. Tell me whatyou feel, B. No, I'm sleepy,A. Please, I want to know, B. Tomorrow, A. No, tell me now, and begging involves this and abjectness of demeanour,so, out of context, an utterance may be uninterpretableas pleading or begging. It follows that an imperativemay have the potential of unambiguouslytrying to get the hearerto do something, but be vague as to the exact force. It seems impossible,then, that imperativesare derived from underlying performativeswithout either predictingnon-attestedcontradictionsor ambiguities.
CONCLUSION

It has been shown that everything requiredfor main clause infinitives to have the illocutionarypotential of commanding in a non-opaque fashion is present in the surface structure. Whether a given utterance of a main clause infinitive is in fact a commandor not has to do with the speakers'beliefs aboutthe situation of the utterance.The proposedabstractunderlyingstructuresaremerelyattempts to build into the linguistic description non-linguistic facts about commands; this is unnecessarygiven the propertiesof the surface structure. I believe attempts to represent non-linguistic facts about commands in the grammaris also misguided from a wider theoreticalpoint of view for a number of reasons. Linguistic theory tries to specify arbitrary propertiesof the linguistic system, facts which could be otherwise but are not, and thus are defining of natural language. Formal notations are crucial in this. Everythingthat can be expressed in a notation can also be expressed in ordinaryEnglish; the reasons that grammarsare formalized are twofold. First, a notation that has specific propertiesand that defines only the restrictedclass of sets of strings which are naturallanguagesmakes restrictedclaims about language by virtue of the properties of the notation. OrdinaryEnglish can define any set of strings and make any claim and thereforeis unrevealingin definingthe much smaller class which are natural languages (Sampson, I975: 87). Secondly, formalized grammars with their radicallyconstrainedclaims are empirical in the sense that counterexamples can, in principle, be observed to refute them. One thing is clear, that is, if a formal linguistic theory is not to be empty it must restrict the object of its description to determinate properties of language itself, for example, grammaticality. Now the object of a pragmatictheory, the use of utterancesin situations, has properties which exclude it from proper description by a grammar.First, the facts involved are describable in the same terms as non-linguistic signalling systems, such as gestures, and thus properly belong outside the grammar. Secondly, the preconditionscould not be otherwiseand thereforetell us nothing specifically about the linguistic system. Thirdly, the facts are contingent on 93

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speakers and hearers' beliefs about preconditionsthat obtain for utterances in situation. These beliefs will vary in unpredictableways. Since these facts are of a different order than linguistic facts, we will not want to explain them in a grammar,but in a theory of languageuse. There are two properties of language use which may pose problems for a scientific theory of use, in the sense of defining a class of impossibilities.These are the creativity of language use and the inherent indeterminacyof utterance meaning. The extraordinaryillocutionary potential of sentence illustrated by Yourwater is lovely and hot now (see above) is a major source of the creativity of language. Chomsky(I965: 6) describesthe creativeaspect of languageas the ability of speakers to produce an infinite number of situationally appropriate sentences, althoughelsewherethis notion is restrictedto syntactic recursiveness. However,the illocutionarypotentialof sentences is creative,in the sense defined by Sampson (1975: 54 ff.) in that it is impossible to predict, based on past instances,the possibleillocutionarypotentialor the utterancemeaning of a given sentence. It is impossible, for example, to say that a given sentence cannot be a commandor, when a command,that it cannot commanda given act. Likewisefor whether the preconditionsare met. This is the case because whether or not a Griceanargumentcan be constructedby the speakerand perceivedby the hearer is dependenton their imaginationsin the context of their sharedknowledge.The speaker may see some way of uttering a sentence as a command by conceiving the situation in some quite originalmanner.A test of this is to take any unlikely declarativesentence and try to imagine a situation where it could be used to utter a command- one can't predict that it can't be done for any sentence. It is significantto note that this creativityof languageis not a direct propertyof the linguistic system itself, that is, the semantic, syntacticor phonologicalproperties of sentences. Rather, when constructing a Gricean argument to work out the intention of the speaker in uttering a sentence, the pragmatics must merely utilize the semantic properties of the sentence. For example, the semantics of I'm cold must be utilized to connect it with The window/door etc. is openor The heateris off or Coffeemakesme warm and so on indefinitely, to reason out its respective utterance meaning, Shut the window/door etc., Turn on the heater, Get a cup of coffeeand so on. But these meanings aren't part of the semantics of I'm cold. Furthermore, from the hearer's point of view, utterance meaning will be indeterminatebetween a small number of possibilities in any given context, that is, it is essentially indeterminate(Garfinkel& Sacks, I970; Wooton, I975). Of course, the inherentindeterminacyof utterancemeaning from the hearer'spoint of view (what the speakermight have MEANT in utteringthat) is exactly what one would expect given language as both a social and an individual possession. Individuals are unique, free, and necessarilyknow things somewhat differently but within the collective constraintof making sense in terms of what they think 94

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others think or can think (their 'shared knowledge') and the rules of the communication system. What is 'meant', then, except for ritualizedexchanges, will have to be workedtowards,explicated,and negotiatedby participantsin ongoing conversations. These propertiessuggestthat a theory of use cannot be a predictiveand generative device to assign meanings to utterances. Either a theory of how speakers encode their intentions and hearers decode them will be 'explicatory'and provide after the fact explanationsfor instances from a general explanationof how conversationworks or, since situations radicallylimit possible rationalinterpretations, it will be 'predictive'in a probabilisticsense, specifying a small number of probableinterpretationsin any given instance. We are now in a position to pre-empt what might be a principal objectionto this paper and also to relate a pragmatic analysis, such as that proposed for imperatives,to the rest of the grammar. It can be argued, as Ross (1970) has argued, that if there were a pragmatic theory it would '. . . have to specify formallywhat featuresof the infinite set of possible contexts can be of linguistic relevance... (and that) furthermore,these featureswould have to be described by the same primes which are used for the descriptionof linguistic elements, so that rules that range over syntactic elements will also range over them' (Ross, I970: 257). First, it is clear that the outlines of a pragmatictheory have emerged recently, so that there is an alternativeto the performativeanalysis. Secondly, the requirementthat situational features be expressed in a formal notation is premature and the further requirement that it utilize the same primes (e.g. NP, VP, 'subjectof' etc.) is based on the mixing together of two distinct objects
of description. It is possible to state, as Searle does, what features are of linguistic relevance quite clearly in ordinary English. For example, one can say that an utterance requires a speaker and ordinarily at least one hearer. It may not be possible, as I pointed out above, to formalize the explanation of language use in the sense a grammar is formalized because of the properties, creativity and indeterminacy, which this distinctly different object of description has. It may have to be the object of a separate and quite different kind of theory. To require the same primes repeats the mistake. The primes 'subject of' and speaker' or 'addressee' are quite distinct. The relationship between the pragmatic primes and the syntactic ones will be 'interpretative', by analogy with interpretative semantics, and thus can make reference to linguistic primes and relations. Just as Chomsky (1972: 172) suggests rules which interprets the syntactic deep subject of a transitive verb of action as AGENT (a semantic prime) if it is animate, INSTRUMENT (another semantic prime) otherwise, the rule for imperatives suggested above interprets the syntactic surface subject as addressee just in case the main clause verb is non-finite. Clearly, however, other parts of a pragmatic theory will have to make reference to semantics, as noted above. This reflects the fact that the world obtrudes into the language system at a multiplicity

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of languagein terms of focus and of points. Note that the thematic organization presupposition,also a discoursefunction, is determinedby surfacestructureand requiressurface interpretation(Halliday, I967; Chomsky, I972a). What is of specific interest for the grammaris how specific constructionsare more overtly compatible with the preconditions for a given illocutionary force and are therefore relatively non-opaque; in the English imperativecase this is clearly a matter of surface form.
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Garfinkel, H. & Sacks, H. (I970). On formal structures of practical actions. In McKinney, J. & Tiryakian, E. A. (eds), Theoretical sociology. New York: Appleton. 338-366. Gordon, D. & Lakoff, G. (I97I). Conversational postulates. Chicago Linguistic Society 7. Chicago. 63-84. Green, G. M. (I975). How to get people to do things with words: the whimperative question. In Cole, P. & Morgan, J. L. (eds), Syntax and semantics, Vol. 3. New York: Academic Press. Grice, H. P. (I968). Logic and conversation. Mimeo. Halliday, M. A. K. (I967). Notes on transitivity and theme in English, Pt 2. YL 3. I99244.

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The sentence in written English. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer1-3I.

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The meaning of questions. Lg 51.

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Lakoff, R. (1972).

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Lyons, J. (I966). Review of Katz, J. J. & Postal, P. M., An integrated theory of linguistic descriptions. JL 2. I 19- I26. McCawley, J. D. (I968). The role and semantics in a grammar. In Bach, E. & Harms, R. T. (eds), Universals in linguistic theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 124I69.

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Where do noun phrases come from? In Steinberg D. & McCawley, J. D. (I97I)' Jakobovits, L. (eds), Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 217-23 I. Postal, P. M. (I964). Underlying and superficial linguistic structure. In Reibel, D. & Schane, S. (eds), Modern studies in English. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; Prentice-Hall. I937. Ross, J. R. (I970). On declative sentences. In Jacobs, R. A. & Rosenbaum, P. S. (eds), Readings in English Transformational Grammar. Waltham, Mass.: Ginn. 222-272. Sadock, J. M. (I 974). Towards a linguistic theory of speech acts. New York: Academic Press. Sampson, G. (I975). The form of language. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Schegloff, E. & Sacks, H. (1973). Opening up closings. In Turner, R. (ed.), Ethnomethodology. Harmondsworth: Penguin. I974. 233-264. Schmerling, S. (1975). Imperative subject deletion and some related matters. LIn 3. 50I51I.

Seuren, P. (1972). Autonomous versus semantic syntax. In Seuren, P. (ed.), Semantic syntax. London: Oxford University Press, I974. 96-I22. Searle, J. R. (I969). Speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Skalnaker, R. C. (1972). Pragmatics. In Davidson, D. & Harman, J. (eds.), Semantics of natural language. Dordrecht: Reidel. Stockwell, R., Schaeter, P. & Partee, B. H. (I973). The major syntactic structures of English. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Thorne, J. P. (I966). English imperative sentences. JL 2. 69-78. Turner, R. (1970). Words, utterances and activities. In Turner, R. (ed.), Ethnomethod-

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