Vague Words

  • Adam Schaff
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 119)


Both in the case of everyday language and in the case of the specialized language of science we are always faced with the fundamental problem: what must we do so as not to be misled by an improper use of language ? When we speak of being misled by a certain use of language we have two cases in mind: first, when language performs its communicative function in a defective manner so that the speaker is unable to convey his ideas to the listener; and second, when the language in which we think imposes upon us false ideas about the real world (cf. the problem of hypostases), and does so through its structure and forms which, in the case of natural languages, have been fixed by tradition. Such and similar problems are due to various factors. It is these problems which have suggested the idea that language must be not only an instrument, but an object, of research — an idea which has enriched 20th century philosophy through ontological, gnosiological, and methodological studies of languages. These defects of language have become the target of semantic analysis, understood as a semantic analysis of words. Such operations are intended to eliminate factual and logical errors which burden the process of thinking and which make interhuman communication and also one’s communication with oneself (in the process of thinking) more difficult. Such errors are, among other things, due to the ambiguity and vagueness of words.


Verbal Sign Lexical Item Ambiguous Word Logical Constant Linguistic Formulation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    In the Polish literature on the subject the issue has been discussed by T. Kubiéski, ‘Wyrazy nieostre’ (Vague Terms), Studia Logica, VII, 1958.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    B. Russell, ‘Vagueness’, Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, 1923, and M. Black, Vagueness, Language and Philosophy, New York 1949.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Black, op. cit.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© PWN — Polish Scientific Publishers — Warszawa 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Schaff

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