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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

“Declarative,” “interrogative,” and “imperative” are grammatical labels, while “statement,” “command,” and “question” describe type of speech act. The major sentence types correspond to these types, and are found in every language. There are also minor, less well-described types, such as exclamatives. Boundaries between sentence types are not water-tight. A command can be phrased using a statement, or as a question, with a difference in illocutionary force. A question may imply a statement rather than seeking information or pronounced with command intonation, and then be understood as a plea, a request, or an order. The versatility of sentence types is often rooted in cultural conventions and strategies of “saving face.” Speech acts reflect numerous communicative tasks, and can be mapped onto the sentence types in a specific way. The number of sentence types in a given language is finite, while the number of potential communicative tasks can be open-ended.

Keywords: Language, sentence, declarative, imperative, interrogative, exclamative, intonation, speech act, sentence types

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