© 2012

Interpreting Imperatives

  • Gives a uniform analysis for all occurences of the individuated form type

  • Takes into account cross-linguistic findings

  • Offers an explanation and application of clear criteria for identification of imperatives

  • Draws on parallels to other natural language phenomena (e.g. context-dependence of modals)


Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 88)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 1-27
  3. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 29-72
  4. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 73-128
  5. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 129-168
  6. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 169-191
  7. Magdalena Kaufmann
    Pages 193-254
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 255-269

About this book


Imperative clauses are recognized as one of the major clause types alongside those known as declarative and interrogative. Nevertheless, they are still an enigma in the study of meaning, which relies largely on either the concept of truth conditions or the concept of information growth—neither of which are easily applied to imperatives. This book puts forward a fresh perspective. It analyzes imperatives in terms of modalized propositions, and identifies an additional, presuppositional, meaning component that makes an assertive interpretation inappropriate. The author shows how these two elements can help explain the varied effects imperatives have, depending on their usage context.

Imperatives have been viewed as elusive components of language because they have a range of functions that makes them difficult to unify theoretically. This fresh view of the semantics-pragmatics interface allows for a uniform semantic analysis while accounting for the pragmatic versatility of imperatives.  


Declarative IaDs Imperative Interrogative IoDs clause types meaning modality mood semantic theory

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1., Sprachwissenschaftliches SeminarGeorg-August UniversityGöttingenGermany

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Interpreting Imperatives
  • Authors Magdalena Kaufmann
  • Series Title Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law Social Sciences (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-94-007-2268-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-94-007-3757-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-007-2269-9
  • Series ISSN 0924-4662
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XII, 272
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Semantics
    Philosophy of Language
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

“This book provides an analysis of imperatives that aims to unify the study of their linguistic form with that of their various potential uses. … A benefit of this book is that linguists of different areas may find it useful. Because it includes in-depth syntactic analyses of imperatives, as well as semantic and pragmatic ones, different chapters target different audiences. Most linguists interested in imperatives would likely find the whole book helpful … .” (Mary Johnson, The Linguist List, February, 2013)