LINGUIST List 14.1547

Fri May 30 2003

Sum: Imperatives

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. David Kaiser, Summary of Imperatives

Message 1: Summary of Imperatives

Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 16:56:12 -0500
From: David Kaiser <>
Subject: Summary of Imperatives

Below is a summary of the responses to my request for information
about imperatives (Linguist 14.1344). The most commonly mentioned
references were Hamblin 87, Huntley 1984 (L&P), and Chung-Hye Han's
1998 UPenn dissertation.

Thanks to everyone who answered my request.

Uri Strauss wrote:

regarding imperatives: there's some discussion of the issue in janet
dean fodor's old book "semantics: theories of meaning in generative
grammar". it might not be written with reference to karttunen's theory
of questions (it might even predate it), but if i remember, the
discussion there might be helpful in adapting a semantics of questions
to a semantics of imperatives.

in addition, here are a few leads that might be helpful: hamblin wrote
a book on imperatives, which might have some ideas for you, but i'm
not famiiar with its contents.

paul portner's dissertation (umass, 1992) discusses infinitives and
subjunctives, and might also touch upon imperatives. it's in the
framework of kratzer's situation semantics.

chung-hye han's dissertation (upenn, 1999 i think) discusses the
syntax and semantics of imperatives, possibly not from the semantic
perspective that you suggested. but it's worth looking at, in my

Pauline Jacobson wrote:

There is a paper on imperatives along the lines of what you're looking
for, by Martin Huntley, which was published in Linguistics and
Philosophy. Unfortunately I'm at home now and can't look up the exact
reference, but it was sometime - I think - around 1983 (plus or minus
two years). He also had a companion paper published in the CLS
parasession volume on Nondeclarative sentences; this also was in the
early 80's. There was also work along these lines by Sue Schmerling,
though I don't know where this was actually published, but probably at
least something in the Texas Linguistic Forum volumes again in the
early 80's.

Arik Cohen wrote:

You may want to check out M. Huntley (1984) "The Semantics of English
Imperatives", Linguistics and Philosophy, 7:103-133.

Elissa Flagg wrote:

Regarding your post on Linguist List, you might be interested in
Chung-hye Han's 1998 U Penn dissertation entitled "The Structure and
Interpretation of Imperatives: Mood and Force in Universal Grammar,"
which was later published by Garland, I believe.

Chris Kennedy suggested this dissertation as well.

Inga Dolinina wrote:

The best (to my knowledge) logic-based formalizations with lots of
relevant bibliography (though not to Karttunen framework, but to
Hintikka's) are in monographs: Hamblin, Charles L. 1987. Imperatives. 
Oxford: Basil Bblackwell (you might know it) and
less known Moutafakis, Nicholas. 1975. Imperatives and their
logic. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers PVT.

If you are interested in the componential analysis of the meaning of
the imperative, I discuss it in my paper "Evidence for the Imperative
as a Speech-Act category" LACUS FORUM XXVIII.

Robert van Rooy wrote:

There are a number of articles on imperatives, though most of them
concentrate on permissions (the dual of an imperative). There are
various approaches around (the ones of Lewis, Kamp, and Zimmermann are
perhaps best known), some of them are described in my permission paper
`Permission to change' which you can find on my homepage:

As the title suggests, this won't be the final word on permissions (or

David Schlangen wrote:

Alex Lascarides here in Edinburgh has a paper on ``Imperatives in
Dialogue'' which might be interesting for you. You can find it at (under Book


This site was also mentioned by Anton Benz.

Miguel Perez Ramirez wrote:

I have got two papers on formal semantic of imperatives
hopefully is what you are looking for

The references are:

2003: PE9rez-RamEDrez Miguel, Fox Chris. An axiomatization of
imperatives using Hoare logic. Proceedings of the Fifth International
Workshop on Computational Semantics, pages 303-320. Tilburg, The
Netherlands. Eds. Harry Bunt, Ielka van der Sluis and Roser
Morante. January 15-17, 2003.

2003: PE9rez-RamEDrez Miguel, Fox Chris. Imperatives as Obligatory and
Permitted Actions. Computational Linguistic and Intelligent Text
Processing. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference,
CICLing-2003, pages 52-64. Springer LNCS 2588. Mexico City, February
2003. Ed. Alexander Gelbukh.

Also included was an attachment of a corrected version of the latter
paper. Those interested should contact the author.

Arthur Merin wrote:

Dunno if it does for them what k.77 did for qs, but you might find
something formal used to explain one or two puzzles in Algebra of
Elementary Social Acts, in:

S.L. Tsohatzidis ed., Foundations of Speech Act Theory Routledge 1994.

Dave Kaiser
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