What is Said, Linguistic Meaning, and Directly Referential Expressions



Philosophers of language generally distinguish among the lexical or linguistic meaning of the sentence uttered, what is said by an utterance of the sentence, and speaker’s meaning, or what is conveyed by the speaker to her audience. In most views, what is said is the semantic or truth-conditional content of the utterance, and is irreducible either to the linguistic meaning or to the speaker’s meaning. I will show that those views account badly for people’s intuitions on what is said. I will also argue that no distinguished level of what is said is required, and that the notion of linguistic meaning is best placed to play the role of what is said. This relies on two (possibly controversial) points. First, our intuitions on what is said cannot be detached from the ways in which we talk about what is said, and from the semantics of speech reports and indirect discourse in general. Second, beside what is said, there is an equally important notion of what what-is-said is said about, or that about which the speaker is talking. Here are, then, the three ingredients needed for the theory of what is said: linguistic meaning, what is talked about, and the semantics of reported speech.