Specification of the underspecified: A pragmatic analysis of the injunctive in the Rgveda


  • Ian Hollenbaugh Washington University in Saint Louis


This paper uses formal pragmatics to show that discourse context alone is inadequate to explain the function of “injunctive” verb forms (i.e., finite verbs unspecified for tense or mood) in Rgvedic Sanskrit. Prior treatments, which explain the temporal and modal specification of the injunctive as being picked up from other verb forms in the immediate discourse, do not fully account for the injunctive’s observed meanings. By applying a framework known in neo-Gricean pragmatics as a “Horn strategy” to tense and modality, I explain the various functions of the injunctive as arising from partial blocking relationships that hold between it and other verb forms with which it competes.