Imperatives and Modals

Natural Language Semantics 15 (4):351-383 (2007)
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Abstract

Imperatives may be interpreted with many subvarieties of directive force, for example as orders, invitations, or pieces of advice. I argue that the range of meanings that imperatives can convey should be identified with the variety of interpretations that are possible for non-dynamic root modals (what I call ‘priority modals’), including deontic, bouletic, and teleological readings. This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between imperatives and priority modals in discourse which asserts that, just as declaratives contribute to the Common Ground and thus provide information relevant to the interpretation of epistemic modals in subsequent discourse, imperatives contribute to another component of the discourse context, the addressee’s To-Do List, which serves as a contextual resource for the interpretation of priority modals. This analysis predicts that the interpretation of imperatives and modals in discourse is constrained in surprising ways; these predictions are borne out.

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References found in this work

Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Themes From Kaplan.Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.) - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A philosophical guide to conditionals.Jonathan Bennett - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Assertion.Robert Stalnaker - 1978 - Syntax and Semantics (New York Academic Press) 9:315-332.

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