Volume 29, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



It goes without saying that as a pragmatic phenomenon, vagueness has over the past few years been a topic of extensive research. However, a huge gap still exists when it comes to the investigation of how vagueness is expressed across different languages and cultures. In the present study, we have put under scrutiny the pragmatic functions of ‘sort of’, a vague expression, in Persian conversation with a view to making cross-linguistic comparisons between different languages possible. Besides confirming the fact that the vague item ‘sort of’ enables interactants to fulfil a wide variety of functions in interactional settings, particularly in face-to-face interactions, the current study reveals that the expression in question can also serve to signal ‘a moment of awkwardness’ as well as the presence of ‘inferable information’. With the former function, ‘sort of’ signals that the speaker is experiencing a feeling of inconvenience and embarrassment. When used as an inferable information signal, however, ‘sort of’ indicates that the utterance has been inferred from the previous or current exchange.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aijmer, K.
    (1984) ‘Sort of and ‘kind of in English conversation. Studia Linguktica, 38(2), 118–128. 10.1111/j.1467‑9582.1984.tb00738.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9582.1984.tb00738.x [Google Scholar]
  2. (2002) English discourse particles: Evidence from a corpus (Vol.101). John Benjamins Publishing. 10.1075/scl.10
    https://doi.org/10.1075/scl.10 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bavelas, J. B. , Black, A. , Chovil, N. , & Mullett, J.
    (1990) Equivocal communication. London: Sage Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Beeching, K.
    (2016) Pragmatic markers in British English: Meaning in social interaction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139507110
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139507110 [Google Scholar]
  5. Berndt, R. S. , & Caramazza, A.
    (1978) The development of vague modifiers in the language of pre-school children. Journal of Child Language, 5(02), 279–294. 10.1017/S0305000900007479
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900007479 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bolinger, D.
    (1972) Degree words (Vol.531). Walter de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110877786
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110877786 [Google Scholar]
  7. Brown, G.
    (1977) Listening to spoken English. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Brown, P. , & Levinson, S. C.
    (1987) Politeness: Some universals in language usage (Vol.41). Cambridge university press. 10.1017/CBO9780511813085
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085 [Google Scholar]
  9. Carter, R. , & McCarthy, M.
    (2006) Cambridge grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Channell, J.
    (1985) Vagueness as a conversational strategy. Nottingham Linguistic Circular141, 3–24.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. (1994) Vague language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Coates, J.
    (1987) Epistemic modality and spoken discourse. Transactions of the Philological Society, 851, 110–131. 10.1111/j.1467‑968X.1987.tb00714.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-968X.1987.tb00714.x [Google Scholar]
  13. Crystal, D. , & Davy, D.
    (1975) Advanced conversational English. London: Longman Publishing Group.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Culpeper, J. , & Haugh, M.
    (2014) Pragmatics and the English language. Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1007/978‑1‑137‑39391‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-39391-3 [Google Scholar]
  15. Cutting, J.
    (Ed.) (2007) Vague language explored. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9780230627420
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230627420 [Google Scholar]
  16. (2012) Vague language in conference abstracts. Journal of English for academic purposes, 11(4), 283–293. 10.1016/j.jeap.2012.05.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2012.05.004 [Google Scholar]
  17. (2015)  Dingsbums und so: Beliefs about German vague language. Journal of Pragmatics, 851, 108–121. 10.1016/j.pragma.2015.06.011
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2015.06.011 [Google Scholar]
  18. Drave, N.
    (2000) Vaguely speaking: A corpus approach to vague language in intercultural conversations. In P. Peters , P. Collins , & A. Smith (Eds.), Language and computers: New frontiers of corpus research. Papers from theTwenty-First International Conference of English Language Research and Computerized Corpora (pp.25–40). The Netherlands: Rodopi.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. (2001) Vaguely speaking: A corpus approach to vague language in intercultural conversations. Language and Computers, 36(1), 25–40.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Edmonson, W.
    (1981) Spoken discourse. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Fernández, J.
    (2015) General extender use in spoken Peninsular Spanish: metapragmatic awareness and pedagogical implications. Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, 2(1), 1–17. 10.1080/23247797.2015.1010846
    https://doi.org/10.1080/23247797.2015.1010846 [Google Scholar]
  22. Fetzer, A.
    (2010) Hedges in context: Form and function of sort of and kind of . In G. Kaltenböck , W. Mihatsch , & S. Schneider (Eds.), New approaches to hedging (pp.49–71). Bingley, UK: Emerald. 10.1163/9789004253247_005
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004253247_005 [Google Scholar]
  23. Fraser, B.
    (2010) Pragmatic competence: The case of hedging. In G. Kaltenböck , W. Mihatsch & S. Schneider (eds.), New approaches to hedging (15–34). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group. 10.1163/9789004253247_003
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004253247_003 [Google Scholar]
  24. Gassner, D.
    (2012) Vague language that is rarely vaguep: A case study of “thing” in L1 and L2 discourse. International Review of Pragmatics, 4(1), 3–28. 10.1163/187731012X632045
    https://doi.org/10.1163/187731012X632045 [Google Scholar]
  25. Haugh, M.
    (2017) Implicature and the inferential substrate. In Piotr Cap and Marta Dynel (eds.), Implicitness: From Lexis to Discourse (pp.281–304), John Benjamins, Amsterdam. 10.1075/pbns.276.13hau
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.276.13hau [Google Scholar]
  26. Holmes, J.
    (1986) Functions of ‘you know’ in women’s and men’s speech. Language in Society, 151, 1–22. 10.1017/S0047404500011623
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500011623 [Google Scholar]
  27. (1988) ‘Sort of’ in New Zealand women’s and men’s speech. Studia Linguistica, 42(2), 85–121. 10.1111/j.1467‑9582.1988.tb00788.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9582.1988.tb00788.x [Google Scholar]
  28. Hübler, A.
    (1983) Understatements and hedges in English. John Benjamins Publishing. 10.1075/pb.iv.6
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pb.iv.6 [Google Scholar]
  29. Hyde, D.
    (2016) Vagueness, logic and ontology. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315548524
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315548524 [Google Scholar]
  30. Hyland, K.
    (1996) Writing without conviction? Hedging in science research articles. Applied linguistics, 17(4), 433–454. 10.1093/applin/17.4.433
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/17.4.433 [Google Scholar]
  31. James, A. R.
    (1983) Compromisers in English: A cross-disciplinary approach to their interpersonal significance. Journal of pragmatics, 7(2), 191–206. 10.1016/0378‑2166(83)90052‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(83)90052-8 [Google Scholar]
  32. Jucker, A. H. , Smith, S. W. , & Ludge, T.
    (2003) Interactive aspects of vagueness in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 351, 1737–1769. 10.1016/S0378‑2166(02)00188‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00188-1 [Google Scholar]
  33. Koutlaki, S. A.
    (2009) Two sides of the same coin: how the notion of ‘face’ in encoded in Persian communication. In: Bargiela-Chiappini, F. , Haugh, M. (Eds.), Face, Communication, and Social Interaction. Equinox, London, pp.115–133.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Lakoff, G.
    (1972) Hedges: A study in meaning criteria and the logic of fuzzy concepts. Chicago Linguistic Society Papers, 81, 183–228.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Lakoff, R.
    (1975) Language and woman’s place. New York: Harper and Row.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Li, S.
    (2017) A corpus-based study of vague language in legislative texts: Strategic use of vague terms. English for Specific Purposes, 451, 98–109. 10.1016/j.esp.2016.10.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2016.10.001 [Google Scholar]
  37. Metsä-Ketelä, M.
    (2016) Pragmatic vagueness: Exploring general extenders in English as a lingua franca. Intercultural Pragmatics, 13(3), 325–351. 10.1515/ip‑2016‑0014
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2016-0014 [Google Scholar]
  38. Meyerhoff, M.
    (1986) The kind of women who put ‘-ish’ behind everything and ‘sort of in front of it – a study of sex differences in New Zealand English. Unpublished M. A. thesis, Victoria University of Wellington.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Miskovic-Lukovic, M.
    (2009) Is there a chance that I might kinda ‘sort of’ take you to dinner?: The role of the pragmatic particles ‘kind of’ and ‘sort of’ in utterance interpretation. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(3), 602–625. 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.06.014
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.06.014 [Google Scholar]
  40. Nikula, T.
    (1996) Pragmatic force modifiers. Jyvaskyla, Finland: University of Jyvaskyla.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Parvaresh, V.
    (2015) Vague language that is vaguep in both L1 and L2: A comment on Gassner (2012). International Review of Pragmatics, 7(1), 129–143. 10.1163/18773109‑00701007
    https://doi.org/10.1163/18773109-00701007 [Google Scholar]
  42. (2017) Panegyrists, vagueness and the pragmeme. In V. Parvaresh & A. Capone (Eds.), The pragmeme of accommodation: The case of interaction around the event of death (pp.61–81). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. (2018) ‘We are going to do a lot of things for college tuition’: Vague language in the 2016 U.S. presidential debates. Corpus Pragmatics, 21, 167–192. 10.1007/s41701‑017‑0029‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s41701-017-0029-4 [Google Scholar]
  44. Parvaresh, V. , & Ahmadian, M. J.
    (2016) The impact of task structure on the use of vague expressions by EFL learners. The Language Learning Journal, 44(4), 436–450. 10.1080/09571736.2016.1204108
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09571736.2016.1204108 [Google Scholar]
  45. Parvaresh, V. , Tavangar, M. , Rasekh, A. E. , & Izadi, D.
    (2012) About his friend, how good she is, and this and that: General extenders in native Persian and non-native English discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 44(3), 261–279. 10.1016/j.pragma.2011.12.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.12.003 [Google Scholar]
  46. Parvaresh, V. , & Tayebi, T.
    (2014) Vaguely speaking in Persian. Discourse Processes, 51(7), 565–600. 10.1080/0163853X.2013.874545
    https://doi.org/10.1080/0163853X.2013.874545 [Google Scholar]
  47. (2018) Impoliteness, aggression and the moral order. Journal of Pragmatics, 1321, 91–107. 10.1016/j.pragma.2018.05.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.05.010 [Google Scholar]
  48. Pierce, C. S.
    (1902) Vagueness. In M. Baldwin (Ed.), Dictionary of philosophy and psychology II. London: Macmillan.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Powell, M.
    (1985) Purposive vagueness: An evaluative dimension of vague quantifying expressions. Journal of Linguistics, 211, 31–50. 10.1017/S002222670001001X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S002222670001001X [Google Scholar]
  50. Prince, E. F. , J. Frader , & C. Bosk
    (1982) On hedging in physician-physician discourse. In R. J. di Pietro (Eds.), Linguistics and the professions. Hillsdale, NJ: Ablex.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Quirk, R. , Greenbaum, S. , Leech, G. N. , & Svartvik, J.
    (1972) A grammar of contemporary English. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Raclaw, J.
    (2013) Indexing inferables and organizational shifts:‘No’-prefaces in English conversation (Doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder).
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Ruzaitė, J.
    (2007) Vague language in educational settings: Quantifiers and approximators in British and American English. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Sabet, P. , & Zhang, G.
    (2015) Communicating through vague language: A comparative study of L1 and L2 speakers. London: Palgrave. 10.1057/9781137486387
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137486387 [Google Scholar]
  55. Sharifian, F.
    (2007) L1 cultural conceptualization in L2 learning: the case of Persian-speaking learners of English. In: Sharifian, F. , Palmer, G. B. (Eds.), Applied Cultural Linguistics. John Benjamin B.V., The Netherlands, pp.33–52.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. (2011) Cultural conceptualisations and language: Theoretical framework and applications (Vol.11). John Benjamins Publishing. 10.1075/clscc.1
    https://doi.org/10.1075/clscc.1 [Google Scholar]
  57. Sobrino, A.
    (2015) Inquiry about the origin and abundance of vague language: An issue for the future. InTowards the future of fuzzy logic (pp.117–136). Springer: Switzerland.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Spencer-Oatey, H.
    (2005) (Im) politeness, face and perceptions of rapport: unpackaging their bases and interrelationships. 10.1515/jplr.2005.1.1.95
    https://doi.org/10.1515/jplr.2005.1.1.95 [Google Scholar]
  59. Stubbs, M.
    (1986) A matter of prolonged field work: Notes towards a modal grammar of English. Applied Linguistics, 71, 1–25. 10.1093/applin/7.1.1
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/7.1.1 [Google Scholar]
  60. Tayebi, T.
    (2016) Why do people take offence? Exploring the underlying expectations. Journal of Pragmatics, 1011, 1–17. 10.1016/j.pragma.2016.05.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2016.05.006 [Google Scholar]
  61. (2018) Implying an impolite belief: A case of tikkeh in Persian. Intercultural Pragmatics, 15(1), 89–113. 10.1515/ip‑2017‑0031
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2017-0031 [Google Scholar]
  62. Tayebi, T. , & Parvaresh, V.
    (2014) Conversational disclaimers in Persian. Journal of Pragmatics, 621, 77–93. 10.1016/j.pragma.2013.09.011
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.09.011 [Google Scholar]
  63. Williamson, T.
    (1994) Vagueness. London, UK: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Zhang, G.
    (2011) Elasticity of vague language. Intercultural Pragmatics, 81, 571–599. 10.1515/iprg.2011.026
    https://doi.org/10.1515/iprg.2011.026 [Google Scholar]
  65. (2015) Elastic language: How and why we stretch our words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139236218
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139236218 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): inferable; Persian; pragmatic function; vague language; vagueness; ‘sort of’
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error