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A contrastive look at English and Dutch (negative) imperatives

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Chapter Summary

Somewhat surprisingly, the imperatives of the Germanic neighbor-languages of English and Dutch have not yet been compared in a systematic, corpus-based way. This paper is a first step towards such a contrastive study. Firstly, it looks at the frequencies of imperative subtypes in the spoken part of the International Corpus of English – Great Britain and in a comparably compiled Northern Dutch corpus out of the Spoken Dutch Corpus. These quantitative results raise questions about the use of imperative discourse markers in both languages, about the grammaticalization of hortatives and about alternative linguistic means of expression. A second section focuses on negative imperatives in English and Dutch. It provides a pragmatic analysis of prohibitives from the perspective of speech act theory and examines their translations in a two-way parallel corpus of plays. The English and Dutch negative imperatives are found to have roughly the same illocutionary profile. The parallel corpus data reveals a difference in correlation between prohibitives in both languages. It is argued that this distinction is part of the explanation for the frequency facts.



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