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International Conference of Nordic and General Linguistics 2012
Functional Synonyms of Imperatives in German and
Simone Heinold
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Institut für Linguistik
[email protected]
1- The phenomenon
In German: Many different constructions for the expression of directive speech acts.
Imperatives, infinitves, past participles, indicatives and many more (Behaghel 1924,
Donhauser 1986, Winkler 1989, etc.)
Reasons for the multitude of synonyms?
→ Aikhenvald 2010: socio-pragmatic! Different forms for different shades of
illocutionary force and different communication situations.
→Heinold 2012: morphological/grammatical! Different alternative forms cover gaps
in the morphological paradigm of the imperative; functional synonyms can be
directed to different sorts of addressees/persons.
1- The phenomenon
The morphological imperative paradigm in German is often categorised as a
category without any person marking:
Zifonun et al. (1997, 1724): "The imperative is not marked for the categories person
and tense; the frequently made identification of the imperative as 2nd person is [...]
not appropriate [...] Primarily, the imperative [...] is a discourse phenomenon. It
serves for the direct influencing of one or more present addressees.”
The actual morphological pattern is considered to be:
2nd SG: Geh- Ø
2nd PL: Geh- t
(for other opinions cf. e.g. Donhauser 1986)
1- The phenomenon
The typological literature (Birjulin/Xrakovski 2001):
There are languages which...
(I) … have a defective morphological imperative paradigm and compensate lacking
forms by different forms of functional synonyms.
(II) … can express imperatives in alternative forms in addition to a complete
morphological paradigm.
Suggestion: Only for the languages in (I) we can really speak of "functional
synonymy"; the alternative constructions mainly differ in the grammatical
properties they have. The languages from type (II) use alternative forms to express
different shades of meaning or illocutionary force.
→ Let's take a look at a language with a complete imperative paradigm: Finnish.
Outline of the talk
1. Introduction: The phenomenon
2. What are imperatives?
3. The alternative forms
a. General overview
b. German infinitives
c. Finnish (3rd)infinitives + illative case
4. Conclusion
Outline of the talk
2. What are imperatives?
2- What are imperatives ?
The formal properties: German
The morphological paradigm: Geh-Ø! Geht! - Go!
Only the 2nd SG is unambiguous. The 2nd PL overlaps formally with the indicative
(Donhauser 1986; Winkler 1989).
Thus in addition syntactic properties are used for the definition of "imperatives"
(Axel 2007; Wratil 2005):
a. Subject-drop
b. Verb-first (V1)
Geh-Ø ___ nach Hause! ('Go home!)
→ The definition involves properties from both the verbal category and the sentence
type "imperative".
2- What are imperatives ?
The formal properties: Finnish
The morphological paradigm (Tommola 2010):
1st SG
2nd SG
sing- IMP
3rd SG
1st PL
2nd PL
3rd PL
→ all persons except 1st SG, plus indefinite form
→ It seems that in Finnish there can be other adressees
than the ones mentioned in the German definition: 3rd
2- What are imperatives ?
The semantic properties:
The prototypical meaning of the prototypical (morphological) imperative: ORDER; REQUEST
Array of additional meanings found in the literature are: COMMAND, PLEA, INTERDICTION,
WISH, ADVISE, PERMISSION (Ascoli 1978; Wunderlich 1984; Donhauser 1986; Lohnstein
2000; Duden 2009; Kaufmann 2011).
a. Steh auf! - 'Get up!' ORDER; REQUEST
b. Geh bitte heim! - 'Please go home!' PLEA
c. Fass das nicht an! - 'Don't touch that!' INTERDICTION
d. Werd(e) schnell gesund! - 'Get well soon!' WISH
e. Nimm lieber die frische Hefe, um den Kuchen zu machen! - 'Better take fresh yeast for your
cake!' ADVISE
(Heinold 2012)
2- What are imperatives ?
The semantic properties:
A more general definition that covers all those readings and functions:
"The speaker [=prescriptor], wishing (or not wishing) action P (which is either being or not
being performed at the moment of speech) to take place, informs the listener [=recipient of
prescription] as to who should (or should not) be the agent of action P [=performer of the
prescribed action], thus attempting to cause (or prevent) action P by the very fact of this
information." Birjulin/Xrakovski (2001, 5)
This covers not only positive AND negative directive speech acts, but also different types of
addressees (like in Finnish).
3 - The alternative forms
3. The alternative forms
3 - The alternative forms
Form: Which alternative forms exist in the two languages at all? Are there
restrictions on their formation?
Meaning/function: The general semantic definition should also hold for the
functional synonyms. But are there different shades of illocutionary force or other
subtle semantic properties? Can their usage be attributed to certain situations or to
a certain register?
What means do the languages have to address different types of addressees?
3 - The alternative forms
3.a General Overview
3 - The alternative forms
German (Behaghel 1924; Brinkmann 1971; Fries 1983; Winkler 1989) :
(3) Verb aufstehen - ‘Get up!’
a. Imperatives: Steh auf! / Steht auf!
b. Infinitves: Aufstehen!
c. Participles: Aufgestanden!
d. Indicatives: Du stehst jetzt auf!
e. free dass-sentences: Dass du mir jetzt endlich aufstehst!
f. Modal constructions: Du musst/sollst jetzt aufstehen!
g. Sie-Imperatives: Stehen Sie auf!
h. Interrogatives: Wirst du wohl endlich aufstehen?
Finnish (Hyvärinen 1989, Winkler 1989, Hakulinen et al. 2004, Tommola 2010):
a. Indicatives: Sinä menet nyt/heti kotiin! - 'You go home now!'
b. olla ('be') + passive participle I: Suojakalvo on poistettava ennen käyttöä. - 'The saftey foil is to be
removed before usage.'
c. 3rd infinitive + illative case: Tanssi-ma-an! - ‘Come dancing!’
d. Conditional/Jussive: Pysyisi kotonaan. - ‘She should stay at home.'
3 - The alternative forms
3.b German infinitives
3 – German infinitives
Corpus study by Heinold 2012:
Hamburger Morgenpost 2006-2009 Korpus via COSMAS II web, IDS Mannheim, 28.676.169 words
InfinitivesIMP: 256 tokens, 174 different verb types were found
No semantic or morphological restrictions on verbs
Can appear with different types of realised addressees:
a. Trotzdem: Mädels, morgen nochmal Push-Up-BH und Wimperntusche anlegen! (HMP09/SEP.02798)
b. Herr Littmann, bitte antworten! (HMP09/MAR.00508 )
c. Alle mal hersehen! (HMP09/MAR.00803 )
d. Volker L. schreit: "Hände hoch, alles hinlegen! " (HMP09/MAI.00141)
e. "Lilly, bitte nicht mehr rauchen!", sagt der renommierte Kölner Frauenarzt Professor Friedric.
→ Addressees can be singular, plural, 2nd or 3rd person. But are they really 3rd person or is it just a socalled "sloppy (interpretive) agreement" (Bennis (2006, 111))?
3 – German infinitives
Fries (1983): we have to decide between vocatives and real nominative subjects. Problem: they have
the same morphological form in German.
Fries proposes a test for the differentiation of nominatives and vocatives concerning their position in
the sentence: vocatives are free to float in the sentence without being ungrammatical
a. Trotzdem: Morgen nochmal Push-UP-BH und Wimperntusche anlegen, Mädels!
b. Bitte antworten, Herr Littmann!
c. ?Mal hersehen, alle.
d. *Volker L. schreit: "Hände hoch, hinlegen alles! "
e. "Bitte nicht mehr rauchen, Lilly! ", sagt der renommierte Kölner Frauenarzt Professor Friedric.
Fries (1983): all quantors (alle, keiner, jeder, niemand) cannot be used as vocatives and must be treated
like real subjects of the verbs. → This view seems to be confirmed by the data in (6). So infinitivesIMP +
quantors are an alternative for the missing 3rd person forms of the imperative paradigm.
3 – German infinitives
InfinitivesIMP can also be used without realising the addressee. They can be bound to places and
address everybody who happens to hear or read them (Brinkmann 1971; Aikhenvald 2010):
a. Hier drücken! - ‘Press here!’ (at the entrance of a building)
b. Jetzt einsteigen! - 'Get in (the train) now!' (on the platform)
The context in which infinitivesIMP come up often suggest generality, universal validity (in/at a certain
situation or place) or a kind of motto or summary.
a. Generell gilt: Auf gute Verarbeitung der Möbel und Einzelteile sowie abgerundete Kanten achten!
b. Ganz wichtig: Die Quittung aufbewahren! (HMP09/JAN.02430)
c. Alte elektronische Geräte immer zum Recyclinghof bringen! (HMP09/SEP.01886)
d. Unter dem provozierenden Motto "Recht und Ordnung durchsetzen - Schanzenfest dauerhaft
verbieten!" führt die NPD die Kundgebung […] durch. (HMP09/SEP.01136)
e. Danach erzählt der Verkehrspolizist vom Revier Uhlenhorst, wie man sein Rad in der dunklen
Jahreszeit sicher macht, und führt einen Fahrradcheck durch. Also: Zweirad mitbringen!
3 – German infinitives
Semantically, the most common readings found in the corpus examples were:
Thus, the semantic range of infinitivesIMP covers the same readings as the classical imperatives and
also favours the prototypical interpretation: ORDER/REQUEST.
Semantically and functionally, the imperative and infinitivesIMP are synonymous. They cover the same
range of directive readings. A more subtle semantic property is that the orders/requests expressed by
the infinitive are often universal/general.
A special property of the infinitiveIMP is that it can be directed to another type of addressee than the
morphological imperative: 3rd person. Moreover, the order/request can be bound to a place.
→ Infinitive covers a gap in morphological pattern of the imperative.
3 – Finnish 3rd infinitives + illative
3.c Finnish (3rd)infinitives + illative case
3 – Finnish 3rd infinitives + illative
Morphology: stem + -ma/mä (imperfective semantics) + –an/än (into/towards meaning)
→ Syömään! (‘Come eating!') (Koskinen 1998, Hyvärinen 1989)
Translation task among 21 Finnish native speakers with L2 German: Translate and try to use an
infinitive form in Finnish! (Heinold 2012)
German sentences included different kinds of addressees: 2 nd, 3rd person, no realised
a. Maria herkommen! - Maria, tule (tänne)! → Imperative 2nd SG
b. (Polizei an der Tür): Herauskommen! - Tule/tulkaa ulos! → Imperative 2nd SG/PL
c. (an der Türe als Schild) Drücken/Ziehen! - Työnnä/vedä! → Imperative 2nd SG/PL
d. Aufhören! - Lopeta/lopettakaa! → Imperative 2nd SG/PL
e. (auf Plakaten) Wählen gehen! - Äänestä/äänestäkää! → Imperative 2nd SG/PL
f. Hereinkommen! - Tule/tulkaa sisään! → Imperative 2nd SG/PL
→ In almost all of the cases the imperative was chosen – addressed to a 2 nd person. Only very rarely
people chose the infinitive. It was often stated that in the given examples infinitives were not possible.
→ (9c) & (9e): the Finnish imperative can also be bound to places
3 – Finnish 3rd infinitives + illative
(10) Also liebe Damen, jetzt bitte in Extase tanzen!
Hyvät rouvat, nyt tanssimaan ekstaasissa! → 3. Infinitiv+Illativ. (3/21)
Which verbs are predominantly used in the 3rd infinitive+illative construction:
Nukkumaan! – sleep; Syömään! - eat; Pukemaan! - dress; Siivoamaan! - clean; Laulamaan! - sing;
Pesemään! – wash; Riisumaan! – undress; Saunomaan! – go to the sauna; Uimaan! – swim;
Tanssimaan! – dance
→ mostly activity verbs
→ 3rd infinitive + illative:
Activity semantics (Verb) + imperfective semantics (ma) + direction into/towards (an)
3 – Finnish 3rd infinitives + illative
3 possible readings: Nukkumaan! (Sleep)
Including speaker: Let us (all) sleep!
Towards the speaker origo: Come here and sleep!
Away from speaker origo: Go to sleep!
→ It seems that the co-existence of the forms is semantically motivated. The special property of the 3 rd
infinitive + illative is the DIRECTION semantics. Thus a reading INVITATION is possible.
4 - Conclusion
4. Conclusion
4 - Conclusion
According to Birjulin/Xrakovski's typological classification about imperatives and
their alternative forms, German belongs into the 1st, Finnish into the 2nd class.
In German infinitives can be directed to other types of addressees as the
prototypical imperative. → supplement of the morphological paradigm
The construction is not restricted to certain verbs. It does not seem that the usage of
this form is bound to certain communication situations.
In Finnish 3rd infinitives + illative case are used to express a special semantic quality
in a directive speech act: direction. → semantic alternative
The construction seems to be rare and only applicable with a handful of verbs.
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