Vanilla Rules: the "No Ice Cream" Construction

Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung 27:209-227 (2023)
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Abstract

This paper is about what we call Deontically-flavored Nominal Constructions (DNCs) in English, such as "No ice cream" or "Dogs on leash only". DNCs are often perceived as commands and have been argued to be a type of non-canonical imperative, much like root infinitives in German or Russian. We argue instead that DNCs at their core are declaratives that cite a rule but can be used performatively in the right context. We propose that DNCs contain an elided deontic modal, i.e., allowed, whose presence explains their distributional restrictions and interpretational properties. Among other things, we speculate on the licensing conditions of DNCs (the presence of 'only' or the negative determiner 'no'), suggesting that these are tied to the properties of discourses in which rules can be used naturally.

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