Purdue University Graduate School
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A Pragmatic Analysis of WISH Imperatives

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posted on 2019-05-14, 18:11 authored by Ryo NomuraRyo Nomura

A word or a linguistic construction can mean various things depending on the context. The imperative is a representative example of such a construction and can express a variety of illocutionary forces such as COMMAND, REQUEST, ADVICE, and more (Quirk et al., 1985, Huddleston et al., 2002).

However, although there are many studies that comprehensively deal with the imperative or individual illocutionary forces of it (e.g. Lakoff, 1966, Ljung, 1975, Davies, 1986, Wilson & Sperber 1988, Han, 2000, Takahashi, 2012, Jary & Kissine, 2014), there is no such study that shows a possible overall process of how we would interpret an imperative to reach a certain illocutionary force when it is uttered. Without such a shared process, we cannot explain why we can communicate using imperatives without misunderstandings. Thus, this process needs to be investigated.

Another problem regarding imperatives is the treatment of non-directive uses of imperatives such as “Have a good day”. The illocutionary force of this imperative would be called GOOD WISH and regarded as a conventional use of imperatives (Davies, 1986). However, it has not been clearly explained why we would choose the imperative construction to express wishes. If this kind of wishes expressed in the form of the imperative are actually a use of imperative, then there should be some reason and motivation for it.

The main purposes of this study are to provide (1) a schema of how one would typically reach the interpretation of WISH when hearing an imperative and (2) an account of such use of imperatives as WISH. In this study, examples of imperatives in two non-cognate languages are used for the analysis in the hope to substantiate the credibility of the schema and the account: Japanese and English. Based on the analyses on the imperative and individual illocutionary forces that have been presented in the literature combined with my own analysis, a schema is proposed that illustrates how one would typically reach PRIVATE WISH, the state of affairs of which is deemed to be desirable mainly for the speaker, and GOOD WISH, the state of affairs of which is deemed to be desirable mainly for the addressee. Then, an account for the use of PRIVATE WISH and GOOD WISH is provided. Specifically, the use of imperatives as WISH is an analogous use of prototypical imperatives; people would use the imperative construction to express their strong desirability, and to build and maintain a good relationship with others.


Degree Type

  • Master of Arts


  • Languages and Cultures

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Atsushi Fukada

Additional Committee Member 2

Mariko Wei

Additional Committee Member 3

Elaine Francis