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An utterance means the use of language or a non-verbal sign as a means of communication .

Expression as an element of communication

The word "utterance" describes messages in communication situations in the broadest sense. The word flows smoothly into the area of perceptions , which we only take as signs, but which were not necessarily formulated as such (“There was great pressure on the steam boiler - how was that expressed? - due to a violent hissing of the valve. "Closer to the intended communication :" She expressed her confusion quite openly, she blushed, avoided my gaze and then said ... "). The idea associated with the word is that there are internal states and external signs by which they can be read.

Signs, movements and gestures can be understood as expressions. The word is also used to regularly summarize complex communication situations if the salary came up with the same message in all of his statements ("He said he didn't want to know anything more about her.").

While with statements the question can be asked whether they were made correctly and truthfully (the propositional logic "true" is based on the possibility of and "false" statements on), and while there at assertions comes to anyone for the truth of his Guaranteed statement (one therefore speaks of “misleading”, “willful” or “daring assertions”), expressions are differentiated much more fundamentally when one speaks of “expressions of life”, “expressions of feeling”, “expressions of will” or “expressions of displeasure”. The differences between the terms in the moment of failed communication become clear - with each of these terms failure immediately relates to a completely different area that communication is about: Statements by autistic children are difficult to understand - they are rare and we do not find out what they are supposed to mean. Statements of the theory of relativity are difficult to understand, this is due to the complex matter. The claims of a person whom we hold accountable may seem difficult to understand - we may not want to understand why he makes such implausible claims.

The fact that the word “utterance” is neither tied to a content nor a form of communication nor to a medium such as language, but simply refers to the possibility of communication, is shown in many facets in the self-image with which one speaks of the “right to freedom of expression ”speaks. The point here is not to allow a certain opinion and the whole spectrum of possible forms of expression of opinion should be covered in the same place, from those in writing and pictures to collective ones in demonstration events. It is about the fundamental right to “express oneself”, in this case to be able to give an opinion.

Utterance in the sense of linguistics

In linguistics, “utterance” refers to a concrete, spatiotemporal action or its result, through which signs are produced (spoken, written or sign language). Essentially, it is the sensually perceptible act of speaking or writing with a specific communicative function ( illocution ). Communicative functions can be question , answer, prompt, command , affirmation, assertion , command , promise , lies , etc. Depending on the perspective, the utterance can be described as a concrete speech act , as part of the slogan , the performance or as the realization of communicative competence .

The utterance is to be distinguished from the sentence , which is "a linguistic descriptive unit on the level of the langue " (Bußmann). According to the definition of the sentence according to Meillet (1937), it is understood to mean the totality of the different sound images ( signifier ) that are connected by grammatical relationships. As a linguistic product, it expresses the relationship between type and occurrence (cf. token and type ) ( see above from Kutschera).

The meaning of an utterance ( utterance meaning ) depends, among other things, on the environment of the utterance - be it linguistic (cotext) or extra-linguistic (context) . The meaning of the utterance, together with the illocutive function of the utterance, determines the communicative meaning of the utterance, which is the object of pragmatics .

Statement in the legal sense

Unlawful statements are covered by the utterance offenses.


  • Bußmann, Hadumond: Lexicon of Linguistics. 3. Edition. (2002) / statement.
  • Gethmann, Carl Friedrich / Kamp Georg: Statement. In: Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. 2nd Edition. Volume 1 (2005).
  • Kamp, Georg: Use theory (of the meaning). In: Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. 2nd Edition. Volume 3 (2008).
  • Kutschera, Franz von: Introduction to Intensional Semantics. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1976, pp. 151-154.

Web links

Wiktionary: utterance  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Antoine Meillet: Introduction à l'étude comparative des langues indo-européennes. 1903 (1re éd.), Hachette, Paris 1912 (3e éd.), P. 335.