Atypical Imperative constructions: The case of YOU DO THAT

Keywords: Atypical Imperatives, overt pronominal Subjects, ‘you do that’, Construction Grammar (CxG), gradient acceptance


The interactional centrality of the Imperative, its semantic-pragmatic versatility, and its different syntactic configurations have attracted considerable scholarly interest in various linguistic paradigms. Contributing to and extending this line of investigation through a Construction Grammar (CxG) approach, the present paper focuses on atypical (i.e., non-canonical) Imperatives and their Addressee-encoding in terms of overt pronominal Subjects, referred to as OBLIGATORY SUBJECT IMPERATIVES (OSIs). In so doing, the paper calls attention to ‘you do that’ as an instance of a so-called weak Imperative with a consistent discourse-responsive scope over a previous Addressee-induced proposition /p/. In this context, ‘you do that’ will be argued to couch not the Speaker’s (S’s) intentions or wishes, as conventionally expected by an Imperative, but the S’s low endorsement of the fulfillment of /p/ made manifest in gradient forms of (disinterested) acceptance, indifference or acquiescence. In empirically sketching out the constructional account of ‘you do that’, the paper draws on synchronic, corpus-attested evidence (COCA data) to set the construction apart from its seemingly formal ‘twins’, establish and statistically validate its atypicality and tease apart its inherited and idiosyncratic properties. The paper also provides a working  profile for the possible discourse correlates of ‘you do that’ while it ultimately ventures into a discussion on the productivity of its Imperative-based licensing template.

How to Cite
Geka, V. (2023). Atypical Imperative constructions: The case of YOU DO THAT. Constructions, 15(2).