On the Notion of Intended Meaning


The issue of intended meaning is an open problem in the study of linguistic processes. The paper presents a notion of intended meaning based on the idea of speaker’s preference for a state of affairs to which a sentence refers. Its argument has two components. The first is the conception of meaning developed by analytic philosophy of language; that is, the meaning of a sentence depends on the truth conditions of the sentence, and the meaning of an expression depends on contribution of that expression to the truth value of the sentence in which it appears. The second is the notion of agent’s interest, as a state of affairs which implies a goal of agent, as developed by cognitive social theory. The paper maintains that a speaker’s intended meaning establishes when the truth conditions of a sentence and the possibility conditions of the state of affairs preferred by the agent match. The last part of the paper illustrates three linguistic disputes to support its theoretical intuitions. The first dispute concerns syntactic ambiguity, while the other two disputes concern semantic ambiguity. The paper deals with the general problem of the semantic underdeterminacy of the conventional meaning of natural language sentences. Its specific contribution relates to the problem of intended meaning in communicative processes and to meaning negotiation processes in conflicting interactions.

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