Vague language as a means of avoiding controversy

Vague language describes the use of linguistic items including grammar and particularly lexis to modify and make the meaning of a communication less precise and less clear. While scientific and much academic language prides itself on rigour, precision and clarity, vague language, or VL, as it is known, is a linguistic device used in politics, reporting and everyday conversation to avoid over-declaratory statements and assertions and to build or protect relationships. This paper analyses the various definitions and theories of vague language and examines its use in the English language in discourse management and politeness in gender relations, politics, culture and news reporting. It examines the ways in which vague language is used to convey subtle meanings and identifies it as a huge area of ongoing linguistic research.

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