Vague and Ambiguous

Topics: Semantics, Ambiguity, Meaning of life Pages: 4 (1288 words) Published: November 8, 2012
anguage can be used to mislead and confuse, or to make certain ideas seem more profound than they really are. One main task of critical thinking is to identify these linguistic pitfalls. Let us start with the first major pitfall - obscurity. "Obscurity" here refers to unclear meaning. A concept or a linguistic expression can be unclear for various reasons. One reason is that it might be ambiguous, i.e. having more than one meaning. The other reason is that it might be vague. A term is said to be vague if there are borderline cases where it is indeterminate as to whether it applies or not. Finally, a term might also have an unclear meaning in that its meaning is incomplete. Let us look at these cases one by one. § M08.1 Ambiguity

There are actually different kinds of ambiguity:
Lexical ambiguity
This is a single word or term having more than one meaning in the language. For example, the word "deep" can mean profoundity ("What you have said is very deep."), or it can be used to describe physical depth ("This hole is very deep"). Similarly for words like "young" (inexperienced or young of age), "bank" (river bank or financial institution), etc. Referential ambiguity

It is not clear which thing or group is being referred to. This often arises when the context does not make it clear what a pronoun or quantifier is referring to. "Ally hit Georgia and then she started bleeding." Who is hurt? Ally or Georgia? "Everybody is coming to the party." Certainly "everybody" does not refer to every human being in the whole world. But then which group of people are we talking about? Of course in normal situations the speaker usually has some specific group of people in mind. Many people like to make very general statements, such as "All politicians are corrupt". Literally, this statement implies that there is no politician who is not corrupted. But of course we can think of many counterexamples to such a claim. So the person who makes the statement might say "I don't really...
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