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The different types of ambiguous sound in the english language

However, a natural language is not so perfectly designed to transfer all the information in an expected way. More or less, some flaws in a language are inevitable, such as the ambiguity of a language which causes confusion in people's common utterances.

Generally speaking, there are often certain ambiguous words and sentences appearing in human's utterances and acquiring more precise clarification from speakers. Different interpretations of the same utterance may result in various interpretations and the difficulty of comprehension of listeners. It is, actually, a quite common phenomenon among different languages.

The purpose of this essay is to identify the types of ambiguity because sometimes it could be confusing in itself and with other phenomena.

  1. The purpose of this essay is to identify the types of ambiguity because sometimes it could be confusing in itself and with other phenomena. Scope ambiguity This is the final sort of ambiguity which is caused by the possibility of different semantic scope in a sentence Cann 1993.
  2. Examples can be seen as below. However, some of its aspects are not quite clear-cut even though certain complex means of description have been applied, so ambiguity is still an interesting and complicated topic worthy of further discussion.
  3. However, some of its aspects are not quite clear-cut even though certain complex means of description have been applied, so ambiguity is still an interesting and complicated topic worthy of further discussion.
  4. Grice urges philosophers to hone the 'Modified Occam's Razor.

Therefore, this essay attempts to focus on explaining the basic types of ambiguity after a brief definition and some distinctions from other similar linguistic phenomena which are vagueness and deixis. Among the main content about ambiguity types, it will provide definitions of each type of ambiguity, namely, lexical ambiguity, structural ambiguity, a combination of lexical and structural ambiguity and scope ambiguity.

That means a sentence can be interpreted in different ways and it may be caused by multiple meanings of one word - lexical ambiguity, by different structures of a sentence - structural ambiguity, by a combination of lexical and structural ambiguity or by different semantic scope - scope ambiguity. Examples can be seen as below: Lexical ambiguity This type of ambiguity, in written texts, results from multiple meanings of a word, and in spoken language, results from different the different types of ambiguous sound in the english language forms of the same sounds.

With respect to a written text, in a sentence e. Another example is like 5. For further explanation, there are two reasons for multiple meanings of a word. One is owing to homonyms which have entirely different meanings but share the identical word form, e.

The other one is due to polysemy Cann which means the meanings of the same word are relevant but still different to certain extent, for example, in 5 captain includes different interpretations which all refer to a role of a leader. As for spoken language Wikipediaambiguity is caused by either homophones which share the identical sounds with different meanings, or more than one way of breaking up a set of sounds into words.

For instance, draft and draught are homophones which probably result in certain ambiguity; an example Gerald, K for the second situation is as following. As can be seen, 6a is probably interpreted as 6b because these two sentences have the same phonemic transcription, considering the change in connected speech of spoken language, In fact, most of this ambiguity does not cause a problem in a discourse, for readers or listeners can speculate the meaning which the writers or speakers want to express with the context.

Furthermore, some writers and spearkers use this kind of ambiguity as an element of literature to make a sentence more meaningfully. Therefore, there are two forms of lexical ambiguity, of which one is in written language, mainly caused by homonyms and polesemy, and the other one is in spoken language mainly caused by homophones.

Structural ambiguity Structural ambiguity refers to the situation in which 'a sentence may have different meanings because the words of a sentence are related to each other in various ways, even though each word is clear' Hurford and Heasley A sentence like 2 illustrates two different possibilities - one is that Ted saw a girl with his glasses; the other one is that Ted saw a girl with her glasses.

Distinguishing from lexical ambiguity, all the words in this sentence are clear on their individual meanings. Thus, a simple test for differentiating these two types is that the sentence which includes more than one structure trees without individually ambiguous words is a structurally ambiguous sentence. Hence, two distinct structure trees of 2 are shown as following: However, such ambiguity does not always cause a problem in comprehension.

  • Cann 1993, Hurford and Heasley 1983 and Saeed 2003 because it is an extreme example of lexical ambiguity or structural ambiguity; whereas, Chierchia and McConnell 1990 explicitly listed this type in their analysis, perhaps because it is inappropriate to classify this combination into either type;
  • Scope ambiguity This is the final sort of ambiguity which is caused by the possibility of different semantic scope in a sentence Cann
  • As far as the syntactic category of duck is changed, the structure of this sentence is correspondingly affected;
  • Examples can be seen as below;
  • Nonetheless, the structures in structural and scope ambiguity are still relatively different; the syntactic structure does not play such an important role in interpreting semantic scope and the different deep structures still have the same surface structure, which differentiates from the distinct surface structures in structural ambiguity;
  • Different interpretations of the same utterance may result in various interpretations and the difficulty of comprehension of listeners.

Receivers sometimes could use background knowledge to interpret some ambiguous sentences as some examples from Semantics Saeed Although these three sentences have the same identically ambiguous structure in theory, they can be clearly predicted in practice. A combination of lexical and structural ambiguity This type of ambiguity presents properties of both lexical and structural ambiguity, which means that it has not only an ambiguous word or words but also has more than one possible syntactic structure.

Taking 3 for example, duck is an ambiguous word which could be interpreted as a noun - 'a common swimming bird' or a verb - 'to lower one's head of body quickly' Longman Group UK As far as the syntactic category of duck is changed, the structure of this sentence is correspondingly affected.

Thus, in the former situation, Mary claimed that John saw her when she ducked and duck is the complement of the object her, while in the latter one, Mary claimed that John saw the duck which belonged to her, so duck is the direct object and her is a determiner.

This type of ambiguity is not often considered as one of the main types by some linguists e. CannHurford and Heasley and Saeed because it is an extreme example of lexical ambiguity or structural ambiguity; whereas, Chierchia and McConnell explicitly listed this type in their analysis, perhaps because it is inappropriate to classify this combination into either type.

For the same reason, it is listed separately in this essay. Scope ambiguity This is the final sort of ambiguity which is caused by the possibility of different semantic scope in a sentence Cann To be more precise, there is no ambiguity in single words or the surface structure; whereas, the semantic scope is indefinite due to other elements, for instance, qualification and negation. The sentence 4 is one of the examples caused by qualifier that none of the words have ambiguous meanings and the syntactic structure, at least, the surface structure is clear.

However, the doubt is how many representatives have been sent to those meetings for there might be the same representative a being sent to each meeting namely A, B, C, D, etc. In another word, one representative has different semantic scope here.

In another example such as 11it is ambiguous because of negative word not 11 So there are two interpretations for this sentence - either all the people didn't attend the meeting or not all the people attend the meeting. Negation word not can affect the quantifier everyone or the predicate did attend. The reason of an emphasis on the identical surface structure of a sentence with scope ambiguity as mentioned above is that their deep structures are actually different although they have the same surface structure.

Moreover, it is also the reason why some linguists argue that scope ambiguity does present different structures in a deep level, so distinct structures is not a symbol for recognizing structural ambiguity Chierchia and McConnell Nonetheless, the structures in structural and scope ambiguity are still relatively different; the syntactic structure the different types of ambiguous sound in the english language not play such an important role in interpreting semantic scope and the different deep structures still have the same surface structure, which differentiates from the distinct surface structures in structural ambiguity.

  • A sentence like 2 illustrates two different possibilities - one is that Ted saw a girl with his glasses; the other one is that Ted saw a girl with her glasses;
  • Philosophical relevance Philosophical distinctions can be obscured by unnoticed ambiguities;
  • Cann 1993, Hurford and Heasley 1983 and Saeed 2003 because it is an extreme example of lexical ambiguity or structural ambiguity; whereas, Chierchia and McConnell 1990 explicitly listed this type in their analysis, perhaps because it is inappropriate to classify this combination into either type;
  • References and further reading Atlas, J.

Thus, scope ambiguity could be considered as an independent ambiguity type. The Distinction from Vagueness and Deixis It is necessary to distinguish vagueness and deixis while typology of ambiguity is concerned because they have distinct ways of presenting unclear meanings. So they are two different phenomena from ambiguity and should not be included into ambiguity.

Vagueness is a matter of the relative looseness or of the nonspecificity of interpretation Huang For example, in 12 there is no lexical, structural or scope ambiguity which could cause doubt in comprehension, but a small animal is not specified to a definite animal such as a cat or a dog.

It only provides a general description about the animal. In the definition by Peter Mathews In other words, the deictic word has uncertain implications because of its changeable reference. Taking I for example, the word I may refer to speaker at that moment; thus, John can use I when he speaks and so does Mary. The sentence 13 does not provide the definite date with the reference to tomorrow unless listeners or readers assume the day after whenever he or she receives this information.

Introduction

But detailed analysis will not be omitted due to the different focus on this essay. The point made here is that vagueness and deixis are two distinct situation and inappropriate to be mixed with ambiguity. Conclusion To sum up, this essay, with relatively simple analysis, basically talked about the types of ambiguity which is an important component in studies of semantics.

These four types, namely, lexical ambiguity, structural ambiguity and scope ambiguity and a controversial type - the combination of lexical and structural ambiguity all have their own properties although it is not easy to distinguish them very clearly sometimes. Another interesting point is that the spoken lexical ambiguity is also a kind of lexical ambiguity although it is not very often mentioned in books.

Furthermore, generally speaking, ambiguity is different from vagueness and deixis because those two are able to present distinct semantic situation; however, they are not always absolutely unrelated to ambiguity.

An additionally essential emphasis is that the variety of ambiguous examples presented here can cause problems probably because the context or background knowledge is deliberately omitted for the research purpose. Actually, ambiguous sentences and words can be very often interpreted in an accurate way when they are used in reality; moreover, writers and speakers also use this characteristic of ambiguity to make an artistic impact on their language, as this has been mentioned in previous paragraphs.

Finally, as Cann However, some of its aspects are not quite clear-cut even though certain complex means of description have been applied, so ambiguity is still an interesting and complicated topic worthy of further discussion.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Semantics in Generative Grammar. Longman Group UK Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics.