Questions tagged [ambiguity]

The phenomenon of an expression (a word, a phrase, ...) having more than one meaning. Ambiguity can be lexical or structural.

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How can the following phrase ambiguously have two trees: "expensive shoes from Italy"?

This is an exercise from "Introducing syntax" by Olaf Koeneman & Hedde Zeijlstra, 2017. The chapter this exercise is taken from deals with "Merge".
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How do natural languages prevent word ambiguity in "compound words"?

So for context, I am occasionally working on a sort of conlang, and asked this question just recently: How to create words which will be unambiguously parsable in a conlang? In there I run into the ...
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How to find the ambiguity in a sentence?

Let's say there's a sentence like "The ball I threw to the dog in the park got lost." Is there an ambiguity present in this sentence? My opinion is that "in the park" causes an ...
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Can ambiguous sentences be ungrammatical?

In linguistics textbooks, whenever ambiguity is discussed, those ambiguous sentences are grammatical on both readings. However, recently, a few native speakers of English say that a particular ...
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How can I identify whether it is local or global ambiguity?

I am currently learning about local and global ambiguity and we had the following example in of the texts explaining what the topic is about: Paul sent the note to Elena. Paul sent the books, a record,...
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Ambiguity in "Joe and David discussed his plans for tomorrow evening" [duplicate]

Is there a specific term for the ambiguity in the sentence, "Joe and David discussed his plans for tomorrow evening," the ambiguity arising from the use of "his" when it could ...
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38 votes
8 answers
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Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

In the sentence "John told James that he's happy.", the pronoun "he" is ambiguous, since it could refer to either John or James. Are there any languages which try to solve this ...
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Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Southern European languages? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

I noticed that in the Southern European languages, words change spelling to reserve the pronunciation. For example, in Spanish verbs have -ar, -er, and -ir conjugation classes. First person singular ...
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Is there a term for a sequence of letters which can be divided into words in multiple ways?

I've been looking for a term that describes a phrase, unbroken into individual words, which could have multiple meanings depending on where it's divided. It's hard for me to even give good examples ...
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Sentence ambiguitiy

The sentence “Why did everyone’s father think that Tom said that you were fired?” is supposedly ambiguous in three different ways. However, I can’t seem to get any ambiguous reading from it. I have ...
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Eliminating potential meanings of an ambiguous phrase because if they meant XYZ, they'd have written differently: What is this inference called?

I find this situation arising from time to time: There's an ambiguous phrase Z with multiple possible meanings, X and Y (for illustration). If the author meant X, a reasonable or necessary choice of ...
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"Side!" can mean "Right!" or "Left!". Does any language have a word that can mean "Forward" or "Backward"?

I teach partner dancing. I want to use language that makes sense to both Leads and Follows. When partners are facing each other, moving together, "Side!" is usefully ambiguous, meaning (depending on ...
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Are some human languages significantly less ambiguous than others?

Lojban was created to be syntactically unambiguous. I wonder though if there are natural languages that have the same property, or at least come much closer to having it than English does? Has ...
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Does this sentence have two meanings?

The sentence is Some employee must leave. I was told that it is actually ambiguous and has two meanings. But I can only see one. What are the two meanings?
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Is “coordination ambiguity” a subset of “attachment ambiguity”?

As I understand: “attachment ambiguity” is when a constituent could be legally attached to more than one parts of a sentence. “coordination ambiguity” is when a modifier could be attached to an ...
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How to differentiate the abbreviations for preposition and prepositional case in interlinear glossing?

How to differentiate the abbreviations for preposition and prepositional case in interlinear glossing? It’s both PREP and still very dissimilar, yet both appear mixed. Interlinear gloss really helps ...
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List Of Common English Syntax Ambiguities?

For an example of ambiguous syntax: John likes Adam more than Eve. Such a construction could mean that: Comparing Adam and Eve, John likes Adam more. Compared to Eve's liking of Adam, John likes ...
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Syntactic and semantic ambiguity

Does syntactic (structural) ambiguity always come with semantic ambiguity, or is semantic ambiguity always due to syntactic ambiguity? Or are both statements correct?
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Are there languages that have different forms of "we"? [duplicate]

I find the pronoun "we" to be lacking due to its ambiguity regarding whether or not the listener and/or a 3rd party is included. Are there languages which address this by having either multiple forms ...
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Do any spoken languages readily express boolean logic without ambiguity?

Anyone who has worked with programming knows that boolean logic is hard to express in english. Given the statement "A and B must be false", with no context one can understand the statement to mean A ...
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Interpreting different types of ambiguity in a sentence

I am a studying Natural Language Processing and came across multiple types of ambiguity like lexical, scope, global, attachment and coordination ambiguities. Lexical ambiguity: Ambiguity of a single ...
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In German, doesn't using 'von' for agents of passive sentences result in ambiguity?

In German, the agent of a passive construction can be re-introduced using the preposition 'von' (well, 'durch' can be used too, but that's not really relevant). But what if there's another noun ...
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Enumerating the possible Pinyin -> Hanzi transcriptions

Pinyin Chinese text contains less information than its Hanzi equivalent, so its transcription is ambiguous: to identify the correct characters for some given Pinyin requires context. For this reason ...
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Is there are name for this type of ambiguity?

Is there a name for the ambiguity that arises when you can't tell a word's part of speech due to capitalization ? E.g. Run Engine Ambiguity: Command or compound noun?
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Syntactic ambiguity of adjective/adverb

"The bleak cadance of last month's inauguration was still in the air, when Trump lobbed the first Molotov cocktail of policies and executive orders against the capital’s brilliant-white porticos....." ...
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Is there a term of art for a metaphor that means its own opposite?

I see this a fair amount in Shakespeare, where he will use phrases that are perfectly ambiguous. One example from Macbeth: "there's husbandry in heaven, their candles are all out" There is good ...
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Do valid sentences of phrases that have different meanings in different languages exist? How are they called?

I am aware of words that have different meanings in different languages (for example, the word "brat" means brother in many Slavic languages). There are sentences made up from words of one language, ...
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Automated wh movement for turning an answer into the form of a question

I am not a linguist but I want to know if there are any parsing tools in existence that can help me do the following kind of thing: Given a sentence like the one below I would like to generate many ...
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Ambiguity tree: The doctor visited the patient drunk [closed]

I would like to ask if the trees regarding the two different readings of the sentence "The doctor visited the patient drunk" were drawn correctly. a) [VP [^NP The doctor] [V' [V visited] [NP [D the] [...
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Ambiguity, PCFG grammar

I know that the sentence "time flies like an arrow" could have lots of meaning and there is an ambiguity but I draw a tree and I got confused that which meaning is more suitable for this tree. S→ NP ...
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Conversational Implicature vs. Ambiguity

This book suggests the cancellability test for distinguishing the logical consequence from conversational implicature of an assertion. Examples 1a. You can have either soup or salad. 1b. You cannot ...
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What do you understand by the term 'register'? [duplicate]

I'd be interested in asking people about their understanding of the term register and what this signifies for them. This would be a discussion about a specialised term and I'm sure there are multiple ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Is there a grammar of syntax that takes into account inherent syntactic ambiguity in natural languages?

Natural languages necessarily have certain inherent ambiguity. If there were a natural language without inherent ambiguity, then one could have easily adopted such a natural language and used it as a ...
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How to determine an immediate constituent of a sentence [closed]

I am studying Spanish and Portuguese at university, and I am having some trouble with part of a Spanish linguistics assignment. I would be very grateful if somebody could shed some light on how to ...
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3 votes
7 answers
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Can a case system in a language help resolve gramatical ambiguites?

One time in a linguistics class I sat in on, we were discussing ambiguous sentences such as "I killed the man with the spoon". In English, as written, it is unclear if the subject is using a spoon for ...
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What kind of ambiguity is this called?

"We've only got a thousand dollars, you know. Winning against him is impossible." In this context, "winning against him is impossible" does not mean that it is impossible, in general, for anyone ...
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handling ambiguity in parses

Given a sentence from http://home.uchicago.edu/~bartels/papers/Bartels-Johnson-2015-Cognition.pdf: We describe what can be gained from connecting cognition and consumer choice by discussing two ...
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Wordplay in ancient texts

I learned once that ancient texts (for example in Latin) did not separate words. Was that always true or only in specific kinds of documents and writings. Since I have been a bit interested in ...
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Everything is too much, nothing is too little?

What are the statements of the sentence : Everything is too much, nothing is too little. "Alles ist zuviel, nichts zu wenig." In German there are several interpretations: That everything is too ...
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influence of the structure of a sentence on its semantics

A friend told me : "The syntax is different from semantics. Semantics are concerned with the meanings of single words, not the structure of the sentence" Is that true ? If not, how can the ...
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Abbot & Costello "Who's on First" with a pragmatic (or other linguistic) perspective? [closed]

I'm in my first year of the Master's study in applied linguistics, and I'm trying to come up with my research question, which will form the basis of my thesis topic. I've found the famous routine by ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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Earley Parser: Ambiguity

I've got a pretty basic question concerning the Earley parser: In case of syntactic ambiguity ( S -> NP VP(V NP(NP PP)) vs. S -> NP VP(VP((V NP) PP) ), are both parses stored in one chart or in two? ...
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NLP system with end-to-end ambiguity support?

I've noticed that most NLP systems I can easily investigate on the Internet don't handle ambiguity at all, or only handle within components of the pipeline and not between components. For instance it ...
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Structural ambiguity and 'because'

I am trying to analyze Arthur doesn't discipline his children because he loves them to show the structural ambiguity using phrase structure rules that precede X' rules, and that because is ...
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What are the best ways to remove ambiguities in spoken English?

I often find it hard to quickly switch between communication conventions in the colloquial speech, and those in a technical environment. A lot of this comes from ambiguities of how English as a ...
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18 votes
2 answers
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Is there a favoured data structure for storing ambiguous parse trees in Natural Language Processing?

I know a bit about parsing computer languages. Generally they try to resolve all ambiguities when parsing or abort the parse and throw an error. This means you either got nothing because there was an ...
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6 votes
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Are the meanings of «I know what you know» distinguishable?

First let me warn you I have no academic formation in Linguistics, I can't define that area well, so if this sounds off-topic, it probably is. "I know what you know" is an ambiguous sentence, ...
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Can Georgian verb stems start with a vowel?

I'm interested in the kinds of ambiguities which can be encountered when attempting to analyse the agglutinative verbs of Georgian into their component "slots". Georgian verbs may have an optional "...
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5 votes
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Phonological ambiguity that changes the syntactic structure

I'm looking for two sentences that have phonological/phonetic ambiguity (like John's feat, and John's feet), but with different syntactic structures. For example, "John's feat was a big deal" and "...
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Are there sentence boundary disambiguation algorithms which can handle punctuation errors with decent accuracy?

Most algorithms for splitting text into sentences which I've found rely on punctuation being correct. However, in many real world applications, there will be substantial numbers of punctuation errors (...
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