The Open UniversitySkip to content

Hedging and rounding in numerical expressions

Williams, Sandra and Power, Richard (2013). Hedging and rounding in numerical expressions. Pragmatics & Cognition, 21(1) pp. 193–223.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


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 when numbers are not hedged, readers interpret round ones as approxima- tions 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.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 John Benjamins Publishing Company
ISSN: 1569-9943
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
NumGen: Generating intelligent descriptions of numerical quantities for people with different levels of numeracyRES-000-22-2760ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
Keywords: Approximators; empirical studies; hedges; numerical expressions; perception of quantity; rounding
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: Centre for Research in Computing (CRC)
Item ID: 38262
Depositing User: Sandra Williams
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2013 13:27
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 11:30
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU