Instructor(s): Chris Kennedy

Vagueness is a kind of indeterminacy about meaning, pervasive in natural language, which manifests itself as an inability to decide whether a term can be truthfully applied even given complete knowledge of some relevant set of facts. In the past, vagueness has been studied almost exclusively by philosophers of language, and the complexities of its linguistic properties and its interaction with various aspects of grammar have not been fully appreciated. This course will investigate vagueness from a linguistic perspective, documenting the linguistic properties of vague expressions and examining the major theoretical analyses of vagueness in a way that is accessible to students with a basic background in semantics and pragmatics. We will focus on the significance of vagueness for semantic theory, but we will also pay close attention to the questions that have made it a topic of importance in philosophy, computer science, and cognitive psychology.

Introductory semantics/pragmatics. Some background in philosophy of language and logic would also be helpful, but is not required.