the term conative

andersen at UCLA.EDU andersen at UCLA.EDU
Tue Nov 27 18:58:12 UTC 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Roman Jakobson (Style in Language 1960:353-357 and later) uses  
*conative* about speech act functions, as a translation of Karl  
Buehler's (1934) *Appellfunktion*. On this, pragmatic, level  
*conative* subsumes vocatives, interrogatives, and imperatives (more  
widely, mands), all of which try to make the interlocutor do something  
(listen, respond, act). In lectures Jakobson sometimes called these  
"quisitive" functions.

This is indeed, as Nigel points out, something different from the  
traditional conative morphological categories or de conatu implicatures.

Henning Andersen

Quoting Nigel Vincent <nigel.vincent at MANCHESTER.AC.UK>:

> Dear Colleagues,
> I'm interested in uses of the term 'conative'. I have seen it used  
> to describe case alternations equivalent to the difference in  
> English between 'he shot the bear' and 'he shot at the bear', for  
> example in languages like Warlpiri, and Kiparsky has suggested an  
> affinity between the Warlpiri pattern and the alternation between  
> accusative and partitive objects in Finnish. The latter are also  
> sometimes called irresultative. What I am finding it harder to get  
> examples of are instances of conative as a label for verb  
> inflections or periphrases. Matthews' Oxford Concise Dictionary of  
> Linguistics says the term can be used for verb inflections with the  
> meaning 'try to' but he doesn't cite any languages which have this  
> phenomenon. I'd be grateful therefore for any other languages that  
> colleagues can point me to which exhibit a conative construction in  
> this second sense. Aikhenvald's grammar of Tariana identifies a  
> complex predicate construction which she calls 'irresultative' and  
> which comes close: as she says such complex predicates 'describe  
> actions or states which do not quite amount to what they ought to',  
> though in her examples there doesn't seem to be any necessary  
> implication of trying.
> Thanks,
> Nigel
> P.S. I'm assuming that Jakobson's use of the term 'conative' to  
> describe one of the functions of language is something altogether  
> different.
> Professor Nigel Vincent, FBA
> Professor Emeritus of General & Romance Linguistics
> The University of Manchester
> Vice-President for Research & HE Policy, The British Academy
> Linguistics & English Language
> School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
> The University of Manchester
> Manchester M13 9PL
> UK

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