The use of vague language in intercultural conversations in Hong Kong
This paper presents the findings of a study of vague language use based on a corpus of naturally-occurring conversations between native and non-native speakers of English in Hong Kong. The specific concern of the paper is to describe the use of vague language by the two sets of speakers. The forms of vague language present in our data are defined and exemplified. Both the native English and the non-native speakers use vague language extensively in our data for a similar range of purposes, for example to achieve informal communication, classify objects, fill a lexical or knowledge gap, and accommodate one another. We also investigated whether communication problems are experienced in these intercultural conversations by speakers using vague language differently. We conclude that in our data at least there is no evidence to suggest that such communication problems arise from differences in vague language use. On the contrary, the use of vague language by both native and non-native speakers facilitates rather than hinders successful communication in intercultural conversations.
Published online: 27 June 2001
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