Feb. 12, 2018
& End Date
at 460-126 (Greenberg Seminar Room)
Imperative sentences are used not only to command or prohibit, as is commonly assumed, but also to request, plead, offer, permit, and even to merely express a wish, to give advice, or to concede. What is common across all these uses? I will propose that imperatives create commitments to preferences, which guide action choices. None of the perceived interpretations of imperatives reflect their meaning directly. They all arise from inferences about why the speaker would incur the commitment. This view explains the communicative equivalence of imperatives with necessity modals, like "must" or "should", in some uses, and with possibility modals, like "may" or "can", in others. Moreover, it explains why modals can be used to give advice on why a certain goal should be rescinded given the facts of the matter, but imperatives cannot.