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We have statements, and we have questions. A request made in the form of a statement has a question equivalent. But is that question equivalent implicit, or is it simply a rewording of the statement form? Take the following:

"Please tell me why I sound like a sissy."

This has the question form of:

"Why do I sound like a sissy?"

Is that question form implied within the statement form? I would argue it is not. http://www.merriam-webster.com/ defines imply as:

"to express (something) in an indirect way : to suggest (something) without saying or showing it plainly"

This definition can be interpreted to mean:

Something implied must be identified with knowledge outside of what is only directly stated but based on what is stated - one must add context to what is stated.

That may be stretching it a bit, but if one does not use any logic or outside knowledge to examine the meaning of provided information, other than that needed to identify the direct meaning directly present, one cannot identify anything that is implied.

Here's an example: in the statement form of the quote I provided, one could say that it is implied that the individual requesting the information wants to know said information. It is implied because it is not directly stated in any of the words that the individual requesting actually wants to know; it is suggested, but not directly stated. For all we know, the individual is requesting for someone else. The reason I say that the question form is not implied is because we need no more information (other than the "why do", but that is simply part of forming a question) than what is presented in the statement. We have all the information needed to form a question out of what is provided, but we do not have enough information to state with absolute certainty that the individual requesting the information is the one who actually wants to know said information.

Based on this, I would say that the question form of a statement is not implicit. Am I correct?

  • What in the world does "implicit" mean? There are rules to form questions from statements; they are no more implicit than the rules to form a passive from a transitive sentence. The rules for talking are learned (like the rules for walking, and at about the same time) and hardly implicit, or we'd learn to talk faster and fall down less. – John Lawler Jun 24 '15 at 23:35
  • It all depends whether you define "question" as a particular grammatical construction, or an utterance requesting specific information. I'm sure of all the times Why don't you take a running jump? has been uttered, it's rarely been by someone seeking information. – FumbleFingers Jun 25 '15 at 1:10
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You seem to have a few conceptual and terminological confusions. Firstly, this:

Please tell me why I sound like a sissy.

is not a "statement" but rather a "request"; it is not a declarative sentence but an imperative one.

Secondly, it does not have a single "question form"; you can say "Why do I sound like a sissy?", but also "Could you tell me why I sound like a sissy?".

It should be noted that the clause "why I sound like a sissy" is an interrogative content clause (an indirect question), with the corresponding independent clause being "Why do I sound like a sissy?" (a direct question); but just because a sentence includes that clause, it doesn't mean the sentence is a request for information. Consider these:

He asked me why I sound like a sissy.
He offered to tell me why I sound like a sissy.

Thirdly, you are probably selecting the wrong definition of "imply". I'm not sure whether it makes sense to say that a question is "implied", linguistically speaking, by a request for information; but if it does, then the relevant sense of "imply" is surely this one:

to include or involve (something) as a natural or necessary part or result

(from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imply).

Linguists generally use the term "entail" rather than "imply", to avoid this ambiguity; where mathematicians say that a statement p "implies" a statement q (meaning that if p is true, then so is q), linguists say that it "entails" it. And it's not hard to extend this notion to commands/requests or questions (e.g., I suppose that "Go talk to him" could be said to entail "Talk to him", in that you can't fulfill the former command without fulfilling the latter); but I'm not sure what exactly it would mean for a command to entail a question, or vice versa.

  • So if I understand you properly, you're essentially saying that I'm right in thinking that a question form of a "command/request" isn't "implicit". Am I correct? – Clayton Geist Jun 25 '15 at 2:22
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    @ClaytonGeist: Nope. If you understood me properly, you wouldn't persist in saying things about "a question form of a 'command/request'". ;-) – ruakh Jun 25 '15 at 3:06

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