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Say What? On Grice On What Is Said

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Abstract: In this paper I argue that there is a very important, though often neglected, dissimilarity between the two Gricean conceptions of ‘what is said’: the one presented in his William James Lectures and the one sketched in the ‘Retrospective Epilogue’ to his book Studies in the Way of Words. The main problem lies with the idea of speakers' commitment to what they say and how this is to be related to the conventional, or standard, meaning of the sentences uttered in the act of saying. Since the later notion of ‘what is said’, or ‘dictiveness’, is claimed to be logically independent from ‘formality’ (roughly, conventional meaning), Grice seems to maintain that there are cases in which content that is not expressed by a sentence in a context may nevertheless count as what is said. I propose an account of what is said that brings together the two apparently irreconcilable approaches. The price to be paid for a Gricean, however, is to accept a duality of behaviour between (natural language counterparts of) logical constants and logical variables.

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