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LINGUIST List 22.4178

Tue Oct 25 2011

Calls: Historical Ling, Pragmatics, Semantics, Syntax, Typology/Sweden

Editor for this issue: Alison Zaharee <alisonlinguistlist.org>

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        1.     Francesca Masini , Meaning and Form of Vagueness: A Cross-linguistic Perspective

Message 1: Meaning and Form of Vagueness: A Cross-linguistic Perspective
Date: 25-Oct-2011
From: Francesca Masini <francesca.masiniunibo.it>
Subject: Meaning and Form of Vagueness: A Cross-linguistic Perspective
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Full Title: Meaning and Form of Vagueness: A Cross-linguistic Perspective
Short Title: Vagueness2012

Date: 29-Aug-2012 - 01-Sep-2012
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact Person: Francesca Masini
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Pragmatics; Semantics; Syntax; Typology

Call Deadline: 06-Nov-2011

Meeting Description:

Meaning and Form of Vagueness: A Cross-linguistic Perspective
Workshop Proposal to be submitted to the 45th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea


Francesca Masini (Bologna) - francesca.masiniunibo.it
Caterina Mauri (Pavia) - caterina.mauriunipv.it
Lucia Tovena (Paris VII) - tovenalinguist.jussieu.fr
Miriam Voghera (Salerno) - vogheraunisa.it

Vagueness is a basic property of human languages, which manifests itself in a number of different ways. Vagueness is basic in that it fulfills the important communicative task of conveying a piece of information that is indefinite, imprecise, in a word 'vague'.

The notion of vagueness is part of different traditions and has received numerous definitions. Traditionally, for philosophers and formal linguists, a sentence is vague when it does not give rise to precise truth conditions, and the vagueness of an expression originates in imperfect discrimination. However, vagueness may also concern the very content a sentence is meant to convey. We refer to this as 'intentional vagueness'.

The aim of the workshop is to gather together scholars working on the form and meaning of intentional vagueness, namely on the fact that some constructions are used by the speakers precisely to encode a vague referent or state of affairs.

This type of vagueness can be conveyed by a variety of forms at different levels of encoding (e.g. approximators of the sort/kind type, general extenders, list constructions, but also intonation), which, by virtue of their belonging to different domains, are often studied by distinct subfields (syntax, semantics, lexicon, pragmatics, discourse, phonetics). Despite the great specialization in individual areas, there is very little communication between the various subfields and a true cross-linguistic perspective is still missing.

This workshop aims at investigating three lines of research:

1) Cross-linguistic Variation and Diachronic Paths in the Coding of Intentional Vagueness

- How are the various types of vagueness encoded in the world's languages? Is it possible to identify recurrent patterns and significant typological differences?
- On what levels may vagueness be encoded? Do different levels match with different types of vagueness?
- Are there recurrent diachronic patterns leading to the coding of vagueness?
- Are specific categories more apt to be reanalyzed as vagueness markers (e.g. connectives, generic nouns, epistemic adverbs)?

2) Intentional Vagueness and Other Functional Domains: Delimitation Issues

- How is intentional vagueness connected with phenomena such as indefiniteness, indeterminacy and non-factuality? Is it a category of its own?
- If yes, how can we tell it apart from the other domains?
- If no, do different types of vagueness typically trigger different encoding strategies across the world's languages?
- In any cases, what would be the best way to represent the relation between all these expressions (e.g. a semiotic hierarchy, a functional map)?

3) Theoretical and Metalinguistic Issues: How to Talk about Vagueness?

Given the lack of a systematic analysis of intentional vagueness, there is a tendency to overproduce ad-hoc categories. This probably depends on various factors:

- The defining criteria of traditional grammatical categories are of little help in identifying the vagueness functions of the investigated constructions
- Vagueness markers are difficult to classify because they may have a reduced or broader distribution than other items of the same grammatical class
- Vagueness is not only a semantic phenomenon, nor a purely morphosyntactic one, but it may be rather encoded across different levels

We believe that our understanding of vagueness would take great advantage of an effort also on the metalinguistic side.

Call for Papers:


We welcome submissions discussing the form and meaning of vagueness from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective. Topics of interest include:

- Identification and description of specific constructions encoding intentional vagueness (at any level of analysis) in one or more languages
- Identification and description of strategies (e.g. connectives, adverbs, etc.) used for coding vagueness intra- and cross-linguistically
- Typological studies describing recurrent patterns in the coding of intentional vagueness
- Synchronic and diachronic analyses regarding the relation of vagueness with (what seem to be) functionally related domains (such as indeterminacy, indefiniteness, non-factuality/irrealis)
- Diachronic analyses regarding the emergence of constructions encoding intentional vagueness in the languages of the world
- Cognitive or formal representations of intentional vagueness, as part of the meaning encoded by a linguistic expression

Important Dates:

Potential participants should send us a provisional title and a short abstract (300 words) no later than November 6, 2011, so that we can submit the workshop proposal (including a preliminary list of participants) to the SLE Scientific Committee by November 15, 2011.

If the workshop is accepted, all abstract will have to be submitted to the SLE by January 15, 2012 via the conference site (http://www.sle2012.eu/).

For any information please contact workshop.vagueness2012gmail.com.

The full call for papers (with references) is available here:


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