Author Topic: Conjunctions with imperatives  (Read 128 times)

Offline Nico

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Conjunctions with imperatives
« on: January 22, 2020, 01:58:49 AM »
In Italian, the conjunctions "ma" ('but') and "e" ('and') can preface imperatives to reinforce them as in: "ma/e vieni!" ('do come!').
Does anyone know of any languages that display this phenomenon as well?
Many thanks in advance!

Offline vox

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2020, 07:29:44 AM »
Hi Nico,
In French the same phenomenon exists with "mais" (but) but not with "et" (and) : "Mais viens !". It's very common in everyday conversation.

Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2020, 07:42:38 AM »
Thanks! I knew about that. I am just wondering whether the range of verbs that can enter it is the same in the two languages. For instance, in Italian you can also use "ma" with positive polite exhortations as in "do take a seat please". Does "mais asseyez-vous!" work?

Offline vox

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2020, 08:55:42 AM »
Yes it's also used in polite exhortations such as "Mais asseyez-vous !". Actually I think that "mais" is used whenever you want to inform the interlocutor that you are aware of (or presuming) his hesitation, reluctance or refusal to do someting for some reason, because he disagrees, he's shy...



Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2020, 10:25:36 AM »
Merci beaucoup!

Offline Daniel

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2020, 01:22:46 PM »
My intuition is that this is found in a number of languages around the world (I don't know what percentage, probably a minority).

I've studied how conjunctions are used to combine imperatives and other verb forms, and in passing I believe I have seen various examples like this, but it's a subtle effect (even for Italian and French it probably isn't often discussed, and might be omitted from many descriptions), so it probably isn't included in most descriptions of less-studied languages.

There are also other discourse or [grammatical] mood(?) functions of conjunctions in languages. One that seems to come up sometimes is surprise, incredulity, or disbelief. In a number of European languages (I happen to have some references about this, if you're interested) an expression like "And I do that?!" would mean something like "It is unbelievable that I would possibly do that. I would never do that! How could you think it was me!?".

As for what the connection would be, it's not too hard going from additive effects in discourse to an emphatic usage (as in the surprise type above). As for imperatives in general this probably would come from sequences of imperatives and emphasis: "Do this and do that and do it now!" That's just possible (productive, unconventional) usage in English, but actually there do seem to be some fairly conventional expressions like "And don't do that again!" or "And I won't say it again!" when using commands to reprimand someone. There's also a type of discourse context where a conjunction would begin an imperative or similar expression, specifically when (often nonverbal) actions have introduced something from which the imperative follows. For example, a stereotypical hypnotist performing might say "And sleep!" (after swinging a pocket watch in front of someone's eyes). The meaning then is something like 'in conclusion' or 'thus', not so different from how 'and' is used to end lists.
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Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2020, 02:41:34 PM »
"My intuition is that this is found in a number of languages around the world" is a nice statement, but devoid of proof. I am looking for concrete examples in different languages. As for your explanation, it seems plausible, but once again you cannot explain phenomena which are not based on concrete data ...

Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2020, 02:51:06 PM »
My intuition is that this is found in a number of languages around the world (I don't know what percentage, probably a minority).

I've studied how conjunctions are used to combine imperatives and other verb forms, and in passing I believe I have seen various examples like this, but it's a subtle effect (even for Italian and French it probably isn't often discussed, and might be omitted from many descriptions), so it probably isn't included in most descriptions of less-studied languages.

There are also other discourse or [grammatical] mood(?) functions of conjunctions in languages. One that seems to come up sometimes is surprise, incredulity, or disbelief. In a number of European languages (I happen to have some references about this, if you're interested) an expression like "And I do that?!" would mean something like "It is unbelievable that I would possibly do that. I would never do that! How could you think it was me!?".

As for what the connection would be, it's not too hard going from additive effects in discourse to an emphatic usage (as in the surprise type above). As for imperatives in general this probably would come from sequences of imperatives and emphasis: "Do this and do that and do it now!" That's just possible (productive, unconventional) usage in English, but actually there do seem to be some fairly conventional expressions like "And don't do that again!" or "And I won't say it again!" when using commands to reprimand someone. There's also a type of discourse context where a conjunction would begin an imperative or similar expression, specifically when (often nonverbal) actions have introduced something from which the imperative follows. For example, a stereotypical hypnotist performing might say "And sleep!" (after swinging a pocket watch in front of someone's eyes). The meaning then is something like 'in conclusion' or 'thus', not so different from how 'and' is used to end lists.

"I've studied how conjunctions are used to combine imperatives and other verb forms". Can you provide any examples?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2020, 03:24:56 PM »
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"My intuition is that this is found in a number of languages around the world" is a nice statement, but devoid of proof. I am looking for concrete examples in different languages.
I'm referring to vague memories of seeing these types of constructions in descriptive grammars. I'm working on a large comparative project of 300+ languages, and I've used multiple grammars for some, so I've probably looked over about 1000 grammars. I'm genuinely sorry I don't have notes about specific instances, but what I'm suggesting to you is that this is actually something that recurs around the world. I'd guess it's fairly rare, or at least rarely described, but of course that also depends on how grammaticalized you want it to be: it seems like Italian is more grammaticalized than French, and then both more than English (as in my notes above). If I do happen to see any of that again I can mention it to you. But all I can offer for now is some encouragement that if you look hard enough (honestly it might require skimming dozens or hundreds of grammars you have access to, online or at a library), you'll probably find similar examples elsewhere. However, if you are looking for concrete, detailed descriptions, that may not be the best approach anyway, because the sort of thing I vaguely remember is just a quite note (maybe half a page), rather than anything more detailed that you could use for a detailed comparative study. (In other words, using my approach you could probably identify a number of languages that have such usage, but not much beyond that enough to figure out specific variation within it.) You might simply be better off asking speakers of languages if they have constructions like that (as for French above), except that would bias your sample toward European and other familiar languages, whereas I'm suggesting you may find similar things around the world. Honestly I can't tell you that I've seen this explicitly more than a handful of times, but remember that I wasn't looking for it intentionally. If I had to guess, I'd start with some African languages.

One relevant though vague connection I can point you to is that the verb "go" seems to grammaticalized as a narrative sequential device in some languages (a particularly good example is: Ebert, Karen H. 2003. “Come” and “go” as discourse connectors in Kera and other Chadic languages. In Zygmunt Frajzyngier, Erin Shay & Uwe Seibert (eds.), Motion, direction and location in languages: in honor of Zygmunt Frajzyngier, 111–122. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.56.10ebe ), and then that similarly "go" is well-known to grammaticalize as an imperative marker (as well as "come"); for that, see among others Heine, Bernd & Tania Kuteva. 2002. World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511613463 (see "go > hortative") -- unfortunately that book does not have specific information about the type of development you mention.

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"I've studied how conjunctions are used to combine imperatives and other verb forms". Can you provide any examples?
Sure. My dissertation is about pseudocoordination where verb-and-verb constructions function unlike basic additive coordination. These are especially common in (but not limited to) imperatives. Typical examples in English include "go and get", "come and see", "try and do" (these function similarly to serial verb constructions, or subordination, etc.). So just while I've been looking for usage along those lines, I believe I have seen some things that would be of interest to you, but didn't take notes. (I've been working on this project for several years.)

If pseudocoordination happens to be of interest to you, I can share some of my work and additional references, but it does not generally include the type of data you asked about in a narrow sense. I'd also like to hear about the results of your research. Unfortunately right now I'm limited to just encouraging you to look for more information because I do think you'll find it, although it might be hard to locate or sometimes not too detailed.

Regarding the German (etc.) construction of incredulity that I mentioned previously, here's one accessible reference (and I might be able to find a few more if that would be helpful):
Zaefferer, Dietmar. 1990. On the coding of sentential modality. In Johannes Bechert, Giuliano Bernini & Claude Buridant (eds.), Toward a typology of European languages, 215–237. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110863178.215
The author has made that available at either of these links:
https://www.academia.edu/1587801/On_the_coding_of_sentential_modality
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332862299_On_the_coding_of_sentential_modality

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As for your explanation, it seems plausible, but once again you cannot explain phenomena which are not based on concrete data ...
Of course you're correct. What I wrote is based on my intuition from having surveyed similar meanings across several hundred languages-- very broad information, but not very detailed, and I wasn't looking for this specifically. Instead, all I'm suggesting here is that there seems to be an interconnected set of functions that are sometimes related by grammaticalization pathways, similar to the entries in Heine & Kuteva's World Lexicon of Grammaticalization mentioned above. These probably occur repeatedly in different (unrelated) languages, although you can't assume it explains anything in any particular language. To phrase that another way, I've made some casual observations that suggest relevant research questions (but not answers yet). And yours seems to be a good one, in that sense.

I hope that's somewhat helpful, or at least encouraging. I can't offer any specific examples beyond English because I'm not that intimately familiar enough with discourse markers (etc.) in the other languages I've studied. Certainly this doesn't seem obligatory for familiar languages (for example, I've studied Italian and can speak it at a basic level and this doesn't seem to be a salient or frequent feature [e.g. not mentioned in textbooks], but of course that's exactly why it's interesting and important that you're investigating it).
« Last Edit: January 22, 2020, 03:44:05 PM by Daniel »
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Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2020, 01:56:51 AM »
Hi Daniel! Thanks a lot for your exhaustive reply! The reason for asking is that I am planning an article for a volume edited by Tania Kuteva. No, there is no mention of this phenomenon in her and Heine's work. Anyway, I'll have a look at the work you quote. Speakers of European languages (apart from Italian, French and German) are obviously more than welcome if they want to contribute :-)

Offline Daniel

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2020, 12:42:29 PM »
Good luck with that, and yes I hope you get more information from speakers of other languages. (Now I'm just a bit frustrated I wasn't able to come up with any specific references: I did look around a bit, but nothing obvious stood out. And these terms are surprisingly hard to search for in any narrow-enough way on Google. Either no results, or lots of general results about what conjunctions are. I was looking into whether Greek might be an example, because the coordinator kai has a very wide range of functions, but I didn't come up with any specific references for this, so I'm not sure now. And I'm not sure where to start with the other various languages I've surveyed before. I'll let you know if I see something though.)
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Offline Nico

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Re: Conjunctions with imperatives
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2020, 12:56:14 PM »
No prob, Daniel! You have been helpful anyway.