Semantic Vagueness and Context-Dependence

A new solution is offered for the ancient ’sorites’ paradox of vagueness. The sorites paradox arises if it is assumed that if two objects are indistinguishable, then a vague predicate (e.g., large, or small) can never distinguish between them. The proposed solution to the paradox depends on a systematic ambiguity that is displayed by vague predicates as well as vague relations (e.g., the relation of indistinguishability), which arises from the influence of discourse context on their interpretation. This solution is described against the background of recent research on the role of context in natural language interpretation.

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