Moderate Contextualism and What Is Said
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The notion of what an uttered sentence says has received much attention in recent literature. The aim is to determine the extent to which truth-conditional or propositional content in natural language is dependent on context: is there any truth-conditional or propositional content expressed by a natural language entity (be it an utterance or a sentence) that can be determined without a rather liberal appeal to context? Some (Bezuidenhout 2002, Carston 2002, Travis 1994 and 1996) claim that only by giving a free rein to context can there be a content that is fully propositional or truth-conditional and constitutes what is said by an utterance. Appealing purely to the conventional aspects of meaning, and even allowing for saturation, that is, allowing context to assign reference to indexicals, contextuals (expressions such as ‘friend’, ‘enemy’, ‘neighbour’) and tense-indicators , will not suffice to obtain a proposition. At most, what is had is a proposition fragment or radical or a blueprint for a proposition. So, on this view no sentences of natural language semantically express full propositions, but only a propositional fragment or radical (if at all); and it is only against the background of a context, that a sentence, or rather an utterance of it, can express a full proposition and have truth conditions. Others (Borg 2004, Cappelen & Lepore 2005, Soames in his 2002 guise) argue that there is a minimal proposition that is semantically expressed by an uttered sentence. Such a minimal proposition is obtained through the grammar, syntax and linguistic meaning of the expressions contained in the uttered sentence and the intervention of context only when it is grammatically, that is, lexically or morphemically, triggered. For example, indexicals, contextuals and tense indicators trigger context, but not —so one version of the view claims— quantifier expressions or adverbs such as ‘ready’ or adjectives such as ‘red’. Following Cappelen and Lepore, let us call the former Radical Contextualism and the latter Semantic Minimalism.