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Explicit apprehensions, implicit instructions: An indirect speech act in the grammar

Abstract : Among the languages that grammaticalize the apprehensive domain, some use a subordinator like Eng. lest (“Don’t run, lest you fall”); others have an apprehensive modality within their verb system. Mwotlap (Oceanic, Vanuatu) thus has a mood marker /tiple/ (≈‘might’), often found in paratactic constructions like “Don’t run, you might fall!” This apprehensive also encodes a form of interclausal dependency; yet rather than being due to syntactic subordination proper, this dependency effect is arguably of a pragmatic nature. Indeed, by exposing an event (e.g. your falling) as a risk to be avoided, the apprehensive clause serves as an argument towards a certain behaviour (“don’t run”). Sometimes, only the apprehension is formulated (“You might fall!”), leading the hearer to reconstruct the intended instruction. The apprehensive mood then defines an indirect speech act – one where exposing a danger serves as a proxy for an implicit order. The pragmatic effect is sometimes exploited for politeness strategies, or for its humorous potential.
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Contributor : Alexandre François <>
Submitted on : Saturday, January 2, 2021 - 2:10:15 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 5, 2021 - 5:28:08 PM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-03092513, version 1



Alexandre François. Explicit apprehensions, implicit instructions: An indirect speech act in the grammar. Marine Vuillermet; Eva Schultze-Berndt. A typology of apprehensives, Language Science Press, In press, Studies in Diversity Linguistics. ⟨halshs-03092513⟩



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