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Is the line

That is so cheap!

an exclamative? I've researched exclamatives and found that these usually begin with "what" or "how".

However, I know it's definitely not a declarative sentence mood as these state facts. Or is it?

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    Yes it is an exclamative. How do you know? Simple: it has an exclamation mark. You can exclaim just about anything you want, just by adding that exclamation mark. That is why they are not all in a dictionary: almost any sentence can become an exclamation!
    – oerkelens
    Dec 20, 2017 at 11:16
  • @oerkelens Or is it? ;) (See my post below!) Dec 20, 2017 at 15:41
  • It depends mostly on context and emphasis.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 20, 2017 at 21:28

1 Answer 1

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It can be tricky in this area if we do not nail down two distinct ideas. On the one hand we have the illocutionary force of an utterance. So, for example, if I say:

  1. You went there on Thursday?

with a rising pitch pattern on the word Thursday, my utterance will be understood to have the illocutionary force of a question. If I am angry that you went there on Thursday and I say:

  1. You went there on Thursday!

you may interpret my utterance as having the illocutionary force of an exclamation. We can describe the utterance as being exclamatory.

On the other hand we have the issue of clause type. This is a syntactic issue; it's not about meaning. So although we understand that (1) is being used as a question and that (2) is being used as an exclamation, they have absolutely the same syntactic structure. They are both declarative clauses. In terms of clause types there are five main types:

  • declaratives
  • open interrogatives
  • closed interrogatives
  • imperatives
  • exclamatives

There are additionally some minor clause types such as optatives, but these need not bother us here. Clause types are mutually exclusive. A sentence cannot be declarative and exclamative at the same time!

Typically, we associate declaratives with statements, interrogatives (of both types) with questions, imperatives with directives and exclamatives with exclamations. However, as we have seen, this is not a one to one relationship. Earlier we saw a declarative sentence used first as a question and then as an exclamation. We can just as easily, for example, use an interrogative clause as a directive or an exclamation:

  1. Would you mind passing me the salt? (directive)
  2. Do you mind! (exclamation)

The Original Poster's question

  1. That's so cheap!

Here we see a declarative exclamation. The sentence is not an exclamative although it is being used as an exclamation (if we need to use an adjective to indicate the meaning here, we can say that the utterance is exclamatory).

The Original Poster (henceforth OP) is correct that an exclamative needs a preposed wh- word or phrase. It also has a gap in the clause where this phrase is moved from:

  • How grumpy you are when you haven't eaten!
  • How grumpy you are [how grumpy] when you haven't eaten!

Notice that although this word how and the alternative exclamative wh- word, what, both look like their interrogative counterparts, they are different. These words are degree adverbs.

Although the OP's example has a degree word so in it, which helps give it its exclamatory flavour, it does not have a wh-phrase at the beginning. It also contains no gap. Syntactically, it is just a common garden declarative clause.

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    +1 That should teach me not to answer so quickly and dismissively in a comment!
    – oerkelens
    Dec 20, 2017 at 15:45
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    You don't tell us (a) whether this analysis is universally accepted, (b) the authority putting this treatment forward, or (c) how the 5 main clause types posited are identified. Dec 21, 2017 at 0:05

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