Imperative Statics and Dynamics


Imperatives are linguistic devices used by an authority (speaker) to express wishes, requests, commands, orders, instructions, and suggestions to a subject (addressee). This essay's goal is to tentatively address some of the following questions about the imperative. METASEMANTIC. What is the menu of options for understanding fundamental semantic notions like satisfaction, truth-conditions, validity, and entailment in the context of imperatives? Are there good imperative arguments, and, if so, how are they to be characterized? What are the options for understanding the property that an account of good imperative arguments is supposed to track? What constraints on a semantic analysis of the imperative do different positions on the metasemantic issues impose? SEMANTIC. How might we implement metasemantic postures in a rigorous formal system? How much can we do using familiar tools from deontic modal logic? How much leverage over semantic questions can we gain by introducing tools from natural language semantics—ordering sources, dyadic modal operators, salient alternatives, and the like—into a formal semantics for an imperative object language? How much leverage can we gain by introducing tools from rather less-utilized areas of modal logic—devices for representing actions and planning in time, modal operators constructed from action-terms, and the like—into the analysis? DYNAMIC. How do imperatives succeed in performing the speech acts they are used to perform? How do imperatives update discourses? How can we leverage an account of imperative discourse update in giving a dynamic semantics for the imperative? Is there anything about the imperative that demands a dynamic semantic treatment?

Author's Profile

Nate Charlow
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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