Imperatives are existential modals: Deriving the strong reading as an Implicature

Despina Oikonomou


The variety in the interpretation of Imperatives has received different accounts in the literature (Wilson & Sperber 1988, Han 2000, Schwager 2006/Kaufmann 2012, Portner 2007, Grosz 2009, Condoravdi & Lauer 2012, von Fintel & Iatridou 2015). In this paper, I argue that Imperatives involve an existential modal. I present evidence for the existential analysis of the Imperative operator from scopal ambiguities with \emph{only}. The universal reading is explained on the basis of two factors; i) lack of a scalar counterpart as opposed to overt modals (cf. Deal 2011) ii) strengthening via an Implicature derived in the presence of certain Focus Alternatives (cf. Schwager 2005, 2006, Kaufmann 2012).

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