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A cognitive-pragmatic account of the English imperative-conditional construction

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2016)

Journal: East Asian Pragmatics

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DOI: 10.1558/eap.v1i2.29484


There is a quite commonly used construction called imperative-conditional construction (ICC) in English. It consists of an ordinary imperative clause and an ordinary declarative clause connected by the connective and or or. Based on the concept of construction in cognitive linguistics, ICC can be called a complex symbolic structure which, though composed of two components, should be regarded as a single pragmatic processing unit, because the imperative and the declarative are complementary to and interactive with each other. It will be demonstrated that in everyday communication, ICC can usually convey three kinds of speaker intentions: prohibitive intention, inducing/forcing intention, and advisory intention. The first refers to the speaker intention to prohibit the hearer from carrying out the act described by the imperative clause. The second is the speaker intention to induce or force the hearer to bring about the act described by the imperative clause. The third refers to the speaker intention to advise the hearer to carry out the act described by the imperative clause. These speaker intentions are highly motivated. The motivations include the constructional context, the conditional relation between the imperative clause and the declarative clause, the directive force of the imperative clause, the pragmatic enrichment of the declarative clause, and the complementary and interactive relationship between the imperative and declarative clauses, among which the constructional context serves as an overall macro-motivation, and the rest may be seen as specific motivations. It is hoped that this study can inspire similar investigations of other complex constructions in English and those in other languages like Chinese that have rich complex constructions.

Author: Keding Zhang

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