“Words are more or less superfluous”: the Case of more or less in Academic Lingua Franca English

Maria Metsä-Ketelä


In the past fifty years, English has turned into the leading language of international communication. Despite its well-established status as a global lingua franca, there is a lack of descriptive research on how people actually use English as a global language. The aim of this paper is to contribute to knowledge of lingua franca English, and more specifically to investigate a linguistic phenomenon that is common to all languages, namely lexical vagueness. This study provides a detailed description of how non-native speakers of English use the vague expression more or less in international settings. Concordance analyses showed that more or less is among the most frequent markers of vagueness in academic lingua franca English. A detailed contextual analysis indicated that the expression is used to carry out various communicative functions in lingua franca discourse. This paper aims to show that non-native speakers of English are aware of the communicative potential vague expressions have and that divergence from native use does not result in communication breakdown.



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