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4. Vagueness and context

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4. Vagueness and Context Vague expressions can often not be interpreted without context We know (roughly) how to apply `tall` to a person. Roughly: Tall(x) Height(x) >> 170cm If we used the same standards for buildings as for people, than no building would ever be tall! Context-dependence allows us to associate one word with very different standards. Very efficient! (Cf. Barwise & Perry, Situations and Attitudes)

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Variant of old example [[animal]] = {a,...,k} [[black]] = {a,b,c,d,e} [[cat]] = {a,b,f,g,h,i,j} [[elephant]] = {c,d,e,k} [[black cat]] = {a,b,c,d,e} {a,b,f,g,h,i,j} = {a,b} [[small elephant]] = ? [[small]] = ? Any answer implies that x is a small elephant x is a small animal

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Other types of vagueness are also context dependent [[many]] = how many? [[(increase) rapidly]] = how rapidly? temporal succession. Compare the time lags between the events reported: 1. ``John entered the room. [..] He looked around. less than a second 2. ``Caesar came, [..] he saw, [..] he conquered`` weeks or months 3. ``The ice retreated. [..] Plants started growing. [..] New species appeared.`` many years

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