Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 411–442 | Cite as

Exclamatives, degrees and speech acts

  • Jessica RettEmail author
Research Article


The goal of this paper is an account of the semantics and pragmatics of exclamation. I focus on two key observations: first, that sentence exclamations like Wow, John bakes delicious desserts! and exclamatives like What delicious desserts John bakes! express that a particular proposition has violated the speaker’s expectations; and second, that exclamatives are semantically restricted in a way that sentence exclamations are not. In my account of these facts, I propose a characterization of illocutionary force of exclamation, a function from propositions to speech acts of exclamation. The difference in meaning between sentence exclamations and exclamatives has consequences for the type of violated expectation. I end with a comparison to some previous approaches and a tentative extension of parts of the analysis to other constructions.


Exclamatives Exclamation Illocutionary force Speech acts Degree semantics Mirativity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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