On non-finiteness and canonical imperatives

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Imperatives exhibit cross-linguistically a wide range of structures, which makes it difficult to generalize about them or to propose a structural definition that would apply to all or at least to most of them. This article is concerned with canonical imperatives, that is, information units that have an (implicit) second person singular subject referent as a hearer (or reader or signee) and express commands or requests directed at the hearer. Canonical imperatives have been called extragrammatical or extrasyntactical forms; they resemble nominalized verb forms in being non-finite. But non-finiteness appears to possess a different quality here from what it has, for example, in participial, infinitival, or other non-finite verb forms or clause types. Building on recent work on Discourse Grammar (Kaltenböck et al. 2011, Heine et al. 2013), the article attempts to account for this difference by looking at the role that imperatives play in structuring discourse.


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