Workshop on Vagueness in Communication (ViC 2009): 20-24 July, Bordeaux

Workshop Purpose and Topics: Although vagueness has long since been an important topic in philosophy, logic and linguistics, some recent advances have made the functions of vagueness in natural language communication an exciting and timely research area. This renewed interest has a distinct cross-disciplinary character and has spawned many new research questions. While the classical instruments of dealing with vagueness -- like multi-valued logics, truth value gaps or gluts, or supervaluations -- have not been significantly extended, new approaches investigate questions like context-sensitivtiy of vagueness (Kyburg & Moreau 2000), the sharpening of vague predicates in context (Barker 2002), and the modeling of precision levels with expressions like 'roughly' or 'like' (Kennedy 2007). Within the study of comparatives and degree modification, moreover, researchers are now exploring cross-linguistic aspects of vagueness (Beck et al 2004). On a more fundamental level, the question why there is vagueness to begin with, what role vagueness serves in human communication, has been addressed. For example, it has been argued that vagueness is an epiphenomenon of the impossibility of complete shared knowledge about the extension of many terms (e.g. Williamson 1994), hence a consequence of the cognitive limitations of humans. It has been shown why this does not affect the utility of these terms in communication (Parikh 1994). Game-theoretic methods have been employed that show that being vague or imprecise can be beneficial for communication even if the speaker could truthfully use more precise terms (de Jaegher 2003). Furthermore, the important role of vagueness became evident in a number of empirical domains beyond obvious examples such as the language of diplomacy -- for example, in geographical terms (e.g. Bennett 2008) or in the description of measures of economy (Qizilbash 2005). There are also initial experimental investigations into the ways how speakers interpret vague terms (e.g., Bonini e.a. 1999).

Workshop Organiser: Nikolaus Bourbax (Manfred Krifka, Rick Nouwen, Robert van Rooij, Uli Sauerland and Hans-Christian Schmitz)

The workshop is organised as an event of the
VAAG project of the ESF Eurocore LogicCC. It is part of the European Summer School on Logic, Language and Information ESSLLI 2009 (http://esslli2009.labri.fr/), 20-31 July, 2009 in Bordeaux, France.