NONREQUESTING USES Of IMPERATIVES
"Did I tell you about the time . . .?"
One afternoon early in my fieldwork, Cindy and I parted company after I had assisted her in some errands involving her children. As she turned to leave, she said, "Come to supper." I responded, "I can't. Not tonight." She looked at Anne and said, "Does she think I'm really askin her to supper?" [notes 7/85]
As I leave one woman's home, again early in my fieldwork, I offer a necessary "reason" for leaving that involves commitments to others or a "need." She responds with "Stay now, you stay." Understanding this utterance as an "order," I sit down. She looks surprised. Talk lags. I soon take an exit again. This time I leave. [notes 7/85]
PIVOTAL TO ALL OF ASH CREEK requesting discourse is a system of acceptable uses of imperatives, or other unambiguous directives having imperative functions, to demand compliance of listeners. Except under certain very specific and highly restricted contextual constraints, Ash Creek residents will recognize such imperative forms as "orders." "Orders" are a speaker's blatant assertions of control over another individual and are invariably interpreted negatively--with sometimes highly negative responses involving violence. Residents have well-developed metapragmatic discourse about the use of "orders," which, in turn, constructs a well-developed ideology of "order" language. At the same time, Ash Creek English does not exclude the imperative mood from its grammar. Imperative constructions can be, under certain contextual constraints, very common. This chapter explores the usage patterns that lead to this apparent contradiction as they relate to the reproduction or transformation of the community socioeconomy. It first discusses formal constraints on normative imperative syntax and then considers nonrequesting uses of "orders" in reported speech and oral narratives.