Indirectness, inexplicitness and vagueness made clearer

Wai Lin Leung, Martin John Warren

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The ability to do indirectness, inexplicitness and vagueness is a key component in the repertoire of all competent discoursers and these are commonplace phenomena in written and spoken discourses, particularly in conversations. The study reported in the paper seeks to delineate and exemplify these three terms which are used frequently in the literature, but which are potentially confusing as they are not always unambiguously defined and consistently applied. The purpose of the study is to describe the differences between the three terms in terms of their pragmatic usage and functions, drawing upon a corpus of naturally-occurring conversational data between Hong Kong Chinese and native speakers of English. In so doing, this study underlines the widespread occurrence of these forms of language use and the ways in which participants in spoken discourse employ them to jointly construct both context and meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
Issue number2018-04-03
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Inexplicitness
  • English conversations
  • Indirectness
  • Hong Kong Corpus of Spoken English
  • Vagueness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language

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