Post by CDB Post by David Kleinecke Post by Jack Post by Tak To Post by tonbei
I have a question about the following sentences from a
" ... and you know what I say? It won't matter. We'll get
blamed. The media will go after us like nothing you've
ever seen and will say everything should move back to
Boston. Imagine that?" Before the CFC (Cambridge Forensic
Center) began doing its first cases this past summer, the
state medical examiner's office was located in Boston and
was besieged by political and economic problems and
scandals that were constantly in the news. (Port Mortuary
by P. Cornwell)
context: The narrator works for CFC, which might have made
a serious mistake with handling a body transferred from a
scene. He is talking with the chief of the office, who has
just returned with no idea what's happened to her office.
question: about "Imagine that? " When an imperative
sentence takes a form of question, how should it be
interpreted? Or, is it an elliptical sentence of "Can you
imagine that?" ?
Or, it is a mis-transcribed "Imagine that!".
It would make less sense as 'Imagine that!', which might be
said about something stated as true, rather than about a
prediction or warning. "Imagine that?" fits the context, if
pronounced as a question.
English has two intonation patterns - declarative and
interrogative - two in the generalized (emic) sense. Any English
utterance can be said with interrogative intonation and is then
a question. There are some utterance which are never said with
declarative intonation. At least no one has called my attention
to a scenario where they be.
So which is intended in the posted case? The context does not
give any hint. Both seem possible. If I felt that Cornwell gave
any care to these matters I would say - she means interrogative
intonation. Without other evidence that's what we should read.
There's also uptalk, a "syntagmemically" interrogative intonation
(is that the kind of distinction you called 'emic'?) which I think
is a way of implying that the speaker's pause doesn't mean the end
of the utterance, and thus of holding on to the floor. (I don't
suggest that that is the case in the Cornwell example.)
I am not aware of any differences in meaning associated with such an
intonation. So I have never seen any examples. Holding the utterance
platform is IMO a matter of pragmatics.
Whether any particular case of this intonation is declarative or
interrogative depends IMO on the purpose for its use. If it is used
to forestall an answer I think it must be considered declarative.
Anything English can be made interrogative and we know that in some
people's (valley girls?) it does not imply a question. Very much
Something related to syntactic patterns in the same way that "phonemic"
is related to "phonetic" was my best guess at the kind of thing you were
suggesting with your use of "emic", although I was prepared to learn
that I hadn't gotten the word right. Can you say a little more about
I have been watching for imperatives with what sounds like a questioning
intonation, and I heard one last night on TV that was pretty clearly an
attempt to deliver what could have been a peremptory order into the form
of a suggestion, as had been proposed earlier in the context of "pick up
your room?" (can you X? would you like to X?).
Thinking about my own use of "?" at the end of the snooty Southern
Belle's line in a joke ("I come from a paht of the country, wheah we do
not end ouah sentences, with prepositions?"), I have concluded that the
implied meaning of her delivery was an insulting doubt that her hearer
would understand what she heard. So, in a way, they may all be related
to some sort of question.