Hedges in Mathematics Talk: Linguistic Pointers to Uncertainty by Tim Rowland

The first major type of hedge – a SHIElID – is identifiable as a fuzzy
prelude,s uch as I thinkt hat. The essential characteristico f a Shield is that
it lies outside the proposition which follows it, which may be unequivocal. […]

Prince et al. subdivide Shields into two kinds. The first of these is
termed a Plausibility Shield, typified by I think, maybe and probably… p. 334

The second kind, an Attribution Shield, implicates some degree, or
quality,o f knowledge to a thirdp arty. p. 335

A second major category of hedges (APPROXIMATORS) includes
about anda little bit. In contrastt o Shields, these Approximator-hedgeasr e
located inside the proposition itself. The effect is to modify (as opposed
to comment on) the proposition, making it more vague… About, around, and approximately are examples of Rounders,
which constitutet he firsts ubcategoryo f Approximator.  p. 335

The second type of Approximator is called an Adaptor. These words
or phrases such as a little bit, somewhat, fairly, attach vagueness to nouns,
verbs or adjectives… These Adaptors exemplify the hedges which are the subject of Lakoff’s
semantic work on fuzzy language, where the issue is class membership.
Adaptors suggest, but do not define, the extension of categories, concepts
and so on (see how I just did it with ‘and so on’). Thus Shofiqur uses an
Adaptor phrase just a bit with respect to same(ness); I use two Adaptors,
pretty and fairly, to suggest, first that Shofiqur’s conviction, then mine, is
not simple and unreserved, but of a fuzzy kind. p. 336

In this paper I have outlined and exemplified a classification (that of Prince
et al. 1982) of hedges into functional categories, and offered an interpretive
framework which can be applied to account for some uses of vague language
as it occurs in a mathematics conversational setting where children
are being provoked into predicting and generalising. I have noted that:
*I (as interviewer) use Attribution Shields and Adaptors, usually for
teacher-like purposes;
whereas
* the children typically use Rounders and Plausibility Shields, and nearly
always to implicateu ncertaintyt, o inserts ome space between conviction
and proposition. p. 349-350

 

Channell (1985) has identified a number of goals which speakers
achieve by the use of vague expressions. Amongst these are:
* giving the right amount of information;
* saying what you don’t know how to say;
* covering for lack of specific information;
* expressing politeness, especially deference;
* protecting oneself against making mistakes p. 350

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