New publication! Hedging and Rounding in Numerical Expressions

Our journal article: Sandra Williams and Richard Power ‘Hedging and rounding in Numerical Expressions’ has been published today in Pragmatics & Cognition, Volume 21, Number 1, 2013, pp. 193-223.

Here is the abstract:

Previous accounts of hedges assume that they cause language to become vague or fuzzy (Lakoff 1973); however, hedges can actually sharpen numerical concepts by giving explicit information about approximation, especially where bare numbers appear misleadingly round or precise. They can also tell hearers about the direction of approximation (greater or less than). This article provides a first empirical account of interactions between hedging and rounding in numerical expressions. We demonstrate that hedges occur more commonly with round numbers than with non-round ones. However, we also provide evidence from user studies that in the absence of hedges, readers interpret round numbers as approximations and non-round ones as precise; and that placing a hedge before a round number has no effect on its interpretation, whereas placing it before a non-round number shifts people’s interpretations from precise towards approximate. We attempt to explain this conundrum.

Email me if you would like me to send you a pre-print of the article:

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