Ok so I promised I would go all philosophy on your behinds for some of my PLN. I was a philosophy major in college and I wrote my honors thesis on linguistic vagueness. I promise I will keep it simple and tie it to education by the end!
Language is a human convention (not having the animal language debate, its irrelevant to my point) which means that it has meaning in a two-way mode. By this I mean it requires a speaker and an audience. We have created language and therefore we give it meaning.
Many descriptive terms lack definition. For example, at what point does something go from yellow to green, from soft to hard, from bald to having hair? Most philosophers believe there is some mysterious unknowable truth. They prove this by using bivalent logic (true/false as the only possibilities) but they use that same logic to prove it! Its kind of like the Einstein quote about a fish climbing a tree… You are begging the question. If you are working in binary code you won’t get an answer of 2 even if 2 makes the most sense.
Alternate logic concepts would say that it is matter of True/Not True and False/Not False. It creates a gray area in the middle. Context gives us an understanding of what we mean when we are communicating. We cannot make sense of the language without context. Reading context clues allows us to communicate.
What does this have to do with education? It is important to create the right context when we communicate. By carefully considering the context of our words, we avoid miscommunication. Understanding contexts allows us to say more of what we mean when we talk to staff, parents, and students. Without being aware of the context we create, we are likely to alienate those we are trying to reach!