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The infinitivus pro imperativo in Ancient Greek. The Imperatival Infinitive as an Expression of Proper Procedural Action

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In this paper, it is argued that the use of the imperatival infinitive (or, infinitivus pro imperativo) can be explained by means of the notion of procedure. The imperatival infinitive refers to the appropriate action that is to be carried out as part of a practical or conventional social procedure (script, frame) which is evoked in the discourse or by the extra-linguistic situation of the interlocutors. Unlike the imperative proper, the imperatival infinitive does not involve a direct appeal of the speaker to the hearer. As its directive force depends on the appropriateness of the action within a particular procedure, the imperatival infinitive can be seen as a more indirect type of directive expression.

The functional differences between the imperative and the imperatival infinitive can be clarified by reference to the notions of finiteness and grounding. As imperatival infinitives are not finite, they do not invoke the ground (i.e. the speech event, its participants, and its immediate circumstances), but merely designate a type of action which is not epistemically located with respect to time or reality. Unlike the imperative, therefore, the directive force of the imperatival infinitive is not anchored in the ground, but, instead, it is pragmatically implicated by the procedure at hand.

Affiliations: 1: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Email:


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