University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This paper is an investigation of the properties of what I term the general prohibitive in English. This paper is an introduction to the distribution of general prohibitives, as well as a formal analysis of general prohibition in English. This is a new type of English imperative that has previously gone unnoticed. General prohibitives are used to express banned entities such as “No smoking!” or “No pets!” I will demonstrate that general prohibitives are directives and have nearly identical distribution with imperatives. I propose this is because a null imperative mood marker is present in general prohibitives, and that restrictions on imperative mood explain the restriction on general prohibitives. Additionally, the possibility of adding the word “allowed” to these construction overtly without any change in distribution or meaning leads me to include “allowed” as an adjectival passive explicitly in the structure. The interaction between this null imperative mood marker and a negative element in the clause (“no”, “only”) licenses general prohibitives and explains their syntactic distribution.