Skip to main content
Passa alla visualizzazione normale.


The language game of lost meaning: Using literal meaning as a metalinguistic resource


By literal meaning (LM) we usually refer to a theoretical notion which is at the center of a big debate involving philosophers and linguists with various orientations. At the same time, LM is rooted in a linguistic intuition of the speaker, which we could formulate as follows: words taken in isolation have a meaning. Adopting this general take on LM, we are using a notion of LM that seems incompatible with any research program of a contextualist type; I will show, instead, that in a radically contextualist (and Wittgensteinian) perspective, this notion of LM can have legitimate circulation in particular types of language games. I will propose a recovery of the notion of LM saving the speaker's intuition showing that this notion can have heuristic power but only in those particular language games in which it is necessary to recover the meaning of words considered in isolation. To put it differently, I will maintain that the LM of a linguistic expression can be considered as a metalinguistic resource available to the speaker making use of it in various cases, for example when the conversational exchange that characterizes communication breaks down.