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The imperative in English: The Six-Parameter Approach to Analyzing its Force

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Title: The imperative in English: The Six-Parameter Approach to Analyzing its Force
Authors: Takahashi, Hidemitsu Browse this author →KAKEN DB
Issue Date: Mar-2011
Publisher: Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
Journal Title: Journal of the Graduate School of Letters
Volume: 6
Start Page: 1
End Page: 13
Abstract: It has long been acknowledged that imperatives in English may vary a great deal in the degree of force exertion depending on context. The present paper discusses the strength of force of the imperative Tell me about it in such different conversational interactions as:(i) “A:I’m having a bad day-B:Tell me about it (standard directive use)”and (ii)“A:Don’t buy anything in downtown Tokyo -B:Tell me about it. A single cup of coffee can cost 10 dollars!(ironical use).” To the best of my knowledge, no previous theory is able to specify exactly how imperative utterances like these differ in the strength of force. This paper is a preliminary attempt to do just that. It proposes a formula for specifying the degree/nature of imperative force. The proposed formula is comprised of six separate components,which are DESIRE,POWER,CAPABILITY, COST, BENEFIT, and OBLIGATION. The values for these parameters are added together to determine the overall value of FORCE EXERTION,which is calculated to be numerical ranging between[+10](plus maximum) and[-7](minus maximum). The basic idea is that any imperative utterance is analyzable as to its force given context sufficient to determine the score of each of these parameters (i.e. who is speaking to whom in what social situation). Within the proposed framework,the imperative Tell me about it would be analyzed in terms of[+5]~[+4]score in Interaction (i) above but in terms of[0]~[-3]in Interaction (ii). This contrast results directly from the differences in the scores assigned to the parameters of DESIRE, COST, BENEFIT and OBLIGATION. This global description of the six parameters for specifying the imperative force is expected to provide a basis for characterizing and differentiating a wide array of imperative utterances.
Type: bulletin (article)
Appears in Collections:Journal of the Faculty of Humanities and Human Sciences > Volume 6

Submitter: 高橋 英光

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