Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication (2017 7 ed). p. 386 Middle.

enter image description here

Please see paragraph signaled by the two arrows.

  1. Why did Grice claim that the implicature is not “a part of what is said”?

  2. How did Grice rebuff those readers who reckon that the parenthesized material in (43) IS a part of what is said?

  • The essential difference is between defeasible implication and literal entailment. See Chierchia & Mcconnell-Ginet Meaning and grammar for tests distinguishing the two.
    – user6726
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 16:57
  • Put simply, Grice is drawing a line between what is said, as in stated explicitly, and what is implied. Essentially, no words in the sentence say that Englishmen are brave and you have to draw on non-linguistic knowledge to extract that meaning. Others argue that as all utterances have implications, intentional or not, and you can't have an implication without an utterenace, and the author of those sentences very likely expected the recipients to make those implications, then the implication must be part of what is said. Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 1:39

3 Answers 3


Grice claims that implicature is separate from what is said, since it can only come from a surrounding context: sarcasm, for example, can't be understood in a vacuum. Others say that the dichotomy between "what is said" and "what is not said" in this case is a false one, since nothing can be understood in a vacuum: there is no "true meaning" of the words outside of how people use them, and all the metaphors and implicatures woven into that.


Grice was writing in the 1950s and '60s and he was a philosopher, not a linguist. Thus his views of "what is said" are not linguistic ones, and indeed they're not all that clear to his readers.

There is, in fact, a problem with talking about "what is said" that emerges as soon as the description goes beyond the sounds uttered, because anything beyond the physical and physiological data require human interpretation, and that varies. Grice's intuition, I think, was that while but is logically equivalent to and, there is something more involved when you say but, and it refers to the emotion associated with the clause introduced by but.

When one says He was a politician, but he was honest, one signals some surprise, as if that combination of propositions were not something one would expect. However, it's not part of the logical meaning, because whatever that "something more involved" is when we say but, it has no effect on the truth of the two propositions. That is, in both

  • That company makes bagels, and they're not kosher.
  • That company makes bagels, but they're not kosher.

it is true that that company makes bagels, and that the bagels are not kosher. That is to say, logically they are identical. The difference is the presupposition, which accompanies but, to the effect that bagels are, or ought to be, or are expected to be, kosher.

In the decades following Grice, the concept of Presupposition has emerged to deal with the problems of but, as well as a host of other semantic/pragmatic problems. Presuppositions are considered to be a part of pragmatics, while logic is considered semantics.

In philosophy, "semantics" is usually limited to logic; hence the motto Semantics underspecifies, which refers to all the things that logic doesn't deal with.


If you use a "logical" definition of but and therefore, the sentences could be true even if the "conventional implicatures" were false.

In the context of classical logic, "but" and "and" seem to have the same meaning (in that they have the same truth tables).

Likewise, in classical logic, a word like "therefore" would traditionally be understood as indicating a "material conditional", which as the linked Wikipedia says does not require any causal relationship.

If we consider "what is said" to refer only to the logical statements that are communicated by an utterance, then the contrast between poverty and honesty, and the idea that being an Englishman causally contributes to bravery, is not part of "what is said" in the quoted example sentences.

But it seems a bit dubious to assume that the underlying structure of English grammar is built on the same principles as classical logic. I assume this is why some people disagree with this distinction between what is said and what is implicated in sentences like these. I don't know how Grice "rebuffed" counterarguments.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.