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Generic generalization

A frequently used, yet ambiguous form of speech, which can be interpreted both as a universal and also as an existential expression and thus can be susceptible to misunderstandings.

Examples of generic generalizations are:

  • Swans are white-feathered waterfowl.
  • Cats do not like vegetables.
  • The English are tea drinkers.

Without a quantifying pronoun (such as “all”, “some” or “many”), it is not possible to infer from such a statement whether it refers to the entire extension of the term, or only to a part of it. However, this ambiguity can very easily lead to incorrect conclusions.


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