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The thing about thing: use of vague language in L1 and L2 speaker employment interviews in Australia

posted on 28.03.2022, 20:43 by Denise Gassner
This study investigates the use of the item thing in L1 and L2 speaker discourse in the context of Australian employment interviews. Two main aspects are explored, the relationship of thing with the notion of vagueness and its relationship with implicature construction. -- Given that most research on thing has been conducted in the area of vague language (e.g. Channell, 1994; Cheng and Warren, 2001; Drave, 2002; Jucker, Smith, and Lüdge, 2003; Cutting, 2007), the notion of vagueness is first discussed. From a review of recent semantic and pragmatic literature on vagueness a definition and framework is developed. This definition and framework is then used in a comparative analysis of the vagueness of thing in L1 and L2 speaker discourse. The relationship of thing with vagueness is, therefore, explored in two speaker groups. -- Since the analysis only finds few instances of vagueness when thing is used, thing is also discussed with respect to the cultural context of Australia and the speech event of employment interviews. In particular, the study explores the effects that speakers can generate by using thing in discourse, and, thus, its relationship with implicatures is discussed. Based on previous research in the framework of Relevance Theory (e.g. Sperber and Wilson, 1986/ 1995; Escandell-Vidal, 1998; Jary, 1998a, 1998b), a model is developed in order to discuss the construction of implicatures in the context where the use of thing was observed. From the analysis, it is proposed that the L1 and L2 speakers of English differ in the effects that their use of thing generates in the employment interviews recorded. -- Possible reasons for differences in the L1 and L2 speaker use of thing with respect to the notion of vagueness and regarding implicature construction are explored, and implications of the different uses identified are discussed.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Thing, vague language, vagueness and implicatures -- 3. Framework, speech event, cultural context and the L2 speaker -- 4. Methodology -- 5. A theoretical framework for vagueness -- 6. Results vagueness analysis of thing in L1 and L2 -- 7. Effects of using thing -- 8. The multi-purpose noun thing as an in-group marker and mitigator? -- 9. Discussion of results, practical implications and future research possibilities -- Appendices.


December, 2012 Includes bibliographical references. 239-250

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Dept. of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lynda Yates

Additional Supervisor 1

Didier Maillat


Copyright disclaimer: http://www.copyright.mq.edu.au Copyright Denise Gassner 2012.




1 online resource (xi, 250 pages) illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:27809 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/264309 2004084