Publication details [#63767]

Sorjonen, Marja-Leena, Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen and Liisa Raevaara, eds. 2017. Imperative Turns at Talk. The design of directives in action. (Studies in Language and Social Interaction 30). John Benjamins. vi, 435 pp.
Publication type
Book – edited volume
Publication language


In middle-class Anglo-speaking circles imperatives are considered impolite forms that command another to do something; etiquette manuals recommend avoiding them. The papers in this collection de-construct such lay beliefs. Through the empirical examination of everyday and institutional interaction across a range of languages, they show that imperatives are routinely used for constructing turns that further sociality in interactional situations. Moreover, they show that for understanding the use of an imperatively formatted turn, its specific design (whether it contains, e.g., an overt subject, object, modal particles, or diminutives), and its sequential and temporal positioning in verbal and embodied activities are crucial. The fact that the same type of imperative turn is appropriate under the same circumstances across linguistically diverse cultures suggests that there are common aspects of imperative turn design and common pragmatic dimensions of situations warranting their use. The volume provides new insights into the resources and processes involved when social actors try to get another to do something.