Making (Up) the Truth with Anselm, part 7
For Anselm, then, the truth of a statement lies not, in the first instance, in what the statement says, that is, in the extra-linguistic state of affairs signified by the statement, but in the statement’s faithfully carrying out the intra-mental purpose for which the statement was made, even though the purpose for which a statement is made is that it should indeed signify that what-is is or that what-is-not is not, such that a statement is true when it does precisely this. That having been said, in one of the most interesting and, as I shall argue, suggestive turns in his discussion of truth, Anselm also recognizes a respect in which, on account of their very capacity to signify what is factually true, statements also continue to signify what they were made to signify, and hence have a kind of truth, even when they signify what is in fact not or no longer the case. The Teacher gives the example of the statement “It is day”: although originally made for the purpose of signifying that it is day when it is in fact day, the statement nevertheless retains its grammatical form, meaning, and hence signification, and so in that sense does what it was made to do, what it ought to do, and so has truth, even when it is uttered at night. The way the Teacher puts this is by saying that, coincident with their “having been made” (facta est) to signify that what-is is and what-is-not is not, our statements have also “received the capability of signifying” (accepit significare) that what-is is not and that what-is-not is. A necessary and intrinsic accident, in other words, of a statement’s ability to signify that what-is is and what-is-not is not is its simultaneous, even if not explicitly intended, ability also to signify that what-is-not is and that what-is is not. Or as Sweeney has put it in expressly modal terms, this ability to signify what is false, paradoxically, is a “condition of the possibility” of it also signifying what is true, inasmuch as “language cannot signify what is actually the case without being able to signify what is not the case.”
 Scholars of Anselm’s On Truth have had other ways of describing this distinction between, as I have put it, the truth of a statement’s intelligible, grammatical form on the one hand and its actual correspondence with reality on the other. Torrance, for example, describes the same distinction in terms of a distinction between a statement “fulfilling its syntactical function as a consistent and coherent set of words” and its “fulfilling a semantic function in referring to a state of affairs beyond itself.” Torrance, “The Ethical Implications of Anslem’s De Veritate,” 310. And Noone describes it even more differently though no less perceptively in terms of a distinction of “(1) truth that is concomitant with the statement’s being at all and seems intrinsic to it; and (2) truth that expresses the well-being and proper functioning of the statement.” Noone, “Truth, Creation, and Intelligibility in Anselm, Grosseteste, and Bonaventure,” 109.
 Sweeney, Anselm of Canterbury, 183-4, emphasis original. As she puts it a little later, “the ability to signify undergirds the ability to signify that what is is, and signifying that what is is is the purpose of language.” Ibid., 185.