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Not all imperatives have a Jussive head- Insights from allocutive imperatives

  • Gurmeet Kaur (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
Thursday 7 March 2019
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Meetings
P.N. van Eyckhof 2
2311 BV Leiden


According to the syntactic-pragmatic approach to imperatives, all imperatives contain a dedicated functional head with a 2nd person feature, labeled the Jussive head (Zanuttini 2008; Zanuttini, Pak & Portner 2012); (also see Jensen 2003; Bennis 2006). In this talk, I investigate the (2nd person subject) imperative paradigm in Punjabi, an allocutive Indo- Aryan language, which can encode the addressee of the speech act via overt verbal morphology (Kaur 2017, 2018). The language has two distinct imperatives for the 2nd plural/honorific subject. While the first type of imperative is composed of the bare verb stem and is marked with –o as in (1), the other imperative comprises of a perfective verb form with obligatory allocutive marking je, (2).

(1) (tussii)         kitaab         paRh-o            (*je)
(2.pl/hon)     book.acc    read-2.pl/hon alloc.pl/hon
‘Please read a book!’                                                                                      (Standard imperative)

(2) (tussii)         kitaab         paRhe-yaa-(*o)         je
 (2.pl/hon)    book.acc    read-perf-2.pl/hon   alloc.pl/hon
‘Please read a book!’                                                                                     (Allocutive imperative)

I begin the talk by demonstrating that the imperative in (1) supports the presence of a Jussive head, unique to imperative structures. However, in view of the allocutive imperative in (2), I take issue with the across-the-board presence of a (c)overt Jussive head by providing a twofold argument. First, I show that there is an independent ban on multiple occurrences of 2nd person agreement in the inflectional domain in the language (also noted for other allocutive languages such as Basque (Miyagawa 2012); Tamil (McFadden 2017) and Magahi (Alok & Baker 2018, ms)). This weakens the possibility of a co-occurring allocutive and a (c)overt Jussive head, both of which host a 2nd person feature. Secondly, more evidence for the absence of the Jussive head in (2) comes from the ability of the allocutive head to agree with and bind the 2nd person subject, effectively taking over the role of the Jussive head. More specifically, allocutivity in Punjabi is realized at T as a consequence of agreement with the Addressee-DP in the left periphery. In the absence of another case valuing functional head, the allocutive T head undergoes agreement with the 2nd person subject. This forms a multiple agreement chain (in the spirit of Kratzer 2009; Arregi & Hanink 2018; Bronwyn & Zeijlstra 2018; Raynaud 2018) between the T head, the subject DP, and the Addressee-DP, yielding the required imperative syntax. When this multiple agreement relation cannot be obtained, as in scenarios with a phi-complete v head that can value the subject rendering it inactive for further agreement, we obtain a declarative with allocutivity. In conclusion, this paper argues that positing an imperative-specific functional locus of the 2nd person feature across all imperatives is incorrect. What is crucial to imperative syntax is the presence of an ’active’ 2nd person subject, which is available for agreement with a 2nd person feature—in allocutive systems, this 2nd person feature can also be provided by the (clause-type independent) allocutive head.

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