I entirely agree that the usage of the word "target" is contextual in 5e. But if that's the point @NotAYakk is making, then I misunderstood it. I read @NotAYakk as arguing that "target" in 5e consistently means what one would expect it to mean outside of 5e (i.e. using natural language than a defined term), which I agree in the context of a spell in a TTRPG would be "anything affected by the spell". I simply don't see that consistency in usage and instead agree with you that the meaning in 5e is contextual.I think @NotAYakk 's point is: "target" isn't a defined term in the rules of 5e. It means what it seems to mean in the specific context you're reading it. There's no rule, in any book, that tells you how to figure out the targets of a spell, unless the spell's own description is specific in itself.
So for the fireball example: no rule tells you what a fireball targets. Only what it affects, which isn't quite the same thing. So you can rule it any way you want, and that ruling wouldn't need to apply to any other spell or even other uses of the same spell.
Ok, maybe I am misunderstanding you. I agree they aren't using formal language for "target" in the context of Fireball, but I don't see any way they are using the "natural language" definition you proposed (and with which I agree).Or, they aren't using formal language there, and the rules about targets and saving throws apply to those targets who get saving throws, and not to targets that don't.
Again, natural language.
Here, they might be using "target" to refer to those who get a saving throw.
But if there is (say) an artificer artillerist cannon, it has saving throws, and it makes more sense to give it one than use the objects rules. Or you could instead have it light on fire if and only if flammable. Either way works. Players would only know which one would happen if their PC experimented in my opinion, or did an arcana check to see if they remembered someone else experimenting similarly.
If you are instead using the term "natural language" to mean the definition changes with the context, rather than that the word consistently means "something affected by the spell", then we are in agreement on everything except the terminology we're using to discuss the terminology.
I interpret "natural language" in the context of 5e as meaning that the designers tried to rely on words having their ordinary meanings outside of 5e, rather than using 5e-specific definitions. This is, of course, tricky, since many words' ordinary meanings could be applied to the specialized, made-up concepts in a TTRPG in multiple ways. (For example, the ordinary meaning of "target" could arguably be "what a spell is aimed at" rather than "what is affected by the spell".) I would therefore expect good rules text written in "natural language" to have consistent usage of ordinary terms wherever there might otherwise be ambiguity, just like any other professional document that uses ordinary terms in a specialized context.
If instead, when saying that they used "natural language" the designers meant that they deliberately didn't worry about introducing ambiguity via inconsistent word usage, I would argue that "unprofessional" would be a more apt description than "natural language".