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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Illocutionary force and conduciveness in imperative constant polarity tag questions: A typology

Ditte Kimps
  • Ditte Kimps is a research fellow of the University of Leuven.
/ Kristin Davidse
  • Kristin Davidse is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Leuven.
Published Online: 2008-12-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.036


This article deals with imperative constant polarity tag questions (henceforth imperative CPTQs) such as Leave me alone, will you and Let's have another, shall we. We propose a typology of imperative CPTQs on the basis of a systematic study of data, correlating their distinct formal properties with different contextualized uses. Further developing McGregor's (1997) general approach to tag questions, we argue that the main subtypes of imperative CPTQs can be classified in terms of two interpersonal functions: illocutionary force and conduciveness. These two interpersonal dimensions form continua ranging from speaker-oriented to hearer-oriented meanings. The classification in terms of illocutionary force subsumes speaker-oriented command and request, speaker- and hearer-oriented proposal for joint action, and hearer-oriented advice and invitation/offer. The corresponding conduciveness cline involves mainly ‘softening’ at the speaker-oriented end, where the speaker's desire predominates, and ‘insisting’ at the hearer-oriented end, which focuses on the benefits to the hearer.

Keywords:: tag question; imperative; polarity; (inter-)subjectivity; illocutionary force; conduciveness

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Published Online: 2008-12-01

Published in Print: 2008-11-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse Communication Studies. Volume 28, Issue 6, Pages 699–722, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.036, December 2008

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