Dr Chi-Hé Elder

Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of East Anglia


In post-Gricean pragmatics, communication is said to be successful when a hearer recovers a speaker’s intended message. On this assumption, proposals for ‘what is said’ – the semantic, or truth-conditional meaning of a speaker’s utterance – are typically centred around the content the speaker aimed to communicate. However, these proposals don't account for the fact that speakers can be deliberately vague leaving no clear intention to be recovered, or that a speaker can accept a hearer's misconstrual even though the speaker didn’t intend it. In such cases, identifying ‘what is said’ is more contentious, even though communication is arguably no less successful.

This paper offers a proposal for ‘what is said’ in case the recovery of a speaker’s intention goes awry. When we speak, each of our utterances can potentially communicate multiple meanings whose manifestness ranges from strong to weak. The strong ones are the most plausible candidate for ‘what is said’, but in case they are not recovered, ‘what is said’ has to defer to some other meaning that the speaker could plausibly have been taken to mean – if the form of the utterance and the context allows it – which the hearer recovered. In this sense, ‘grounded meanings’ – those mutually and manifestly accepted into the discourse by speaker and hearer – are given higher precedence in a theory of communication than simply the speaker’s intention.

About Research Seminar Series

The School of Languages and Cultures Research Seminar Series provides an opportunity to hear from the School's researchers as well as visitors on a range of topics from the following research areas: Linguistics, Second Language Studies, Studies in Culture, and Translation and Interpreting

UQ students and staff, students and staff from other universities, and members of the general public are very welcome to attend. Registration is not required. 



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