Pragmatic halos

Language 75 (3):522-551 (1999)
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Abstract

It is a truism that people speak ‘loosely’——that is, that they often say things that we can recognize not to be true, but which come close enough to the truth for practical purposes. Certain expressions. such as those including ‘exactly’, ‘all’ and ‘perfectly’, appear to serve as signals of the intended degree of approximation to the truth. This article presents a novel formalism for representing the notion of approximation to the truth, and analyzes the meanings of these expressions in terms of this formalism. Pragmatic loosencss of this kind should be distinguished from authentic truth-conditional vagueness.

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Peter Nathan Lasersohn
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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