This paper asks why information should ever be expressed vaguely, re-assessing some previously proposed answers to this question and suggesting some new ones. Particular attention is paid to the benefits that vague expressions can have in situations where agreement over the meaning of an expression cannot be taken for granted. A distinction between two different versions of the above-mentioned question is advocated. The first asks why human languages contain vague expressions, the second question asks when and why a speaker should choose a vague expression when communicating with a hearer. While the former question is purely theoretical, the latter has practical implications for the computational generation of utterances in Natural Language Generation (NLG).
- language generation