The elusive benefits of vagueness: the evidence so far

Matthew Green*, K van Deemter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Much of everyday language is vague, even in situations where vagueness could have been avoided (i.e., where vagueness is used ‘strategically’). Yet the benefits of vagueness for hearers and readers are proving to be elusive. We discuss a range of earlier controlled experiments with human participants, and we report on a new series of experiments that we ourselves have conducted in recent years. These experiments, which focus on vague expressions that are part of referential noun phrases, aim to separate the utility of vagueness (as defined by the existence of borderline cases) from the utility of other factors that tend to co-occur with vagueness. After presenting the evidence, we argue that it supports a view where the benefits that vague terms exert are due to other influences, and not to vagueness itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVagueness and rationality in language use and cognition
EditorsRichard Dietz
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer
Pages63-86
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030159313
ISBN (Print)9783030159306
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLanguage, cognition, and mind
Volume5

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