Skip to main content
38 votes
Accepted

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

Yes there are. Examples include Greenlandic and Cree. It's not exactly what you asked for, as it doesn't depend on whether it's the last antecedent, or second-to-last antecedent. But in these ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
14 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

It is all about the spelling conventions in those languages. "Latin does not follow spelling changes" because the alphabet Latin uses was conceived specially for the Latin language, Latin ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.4k
14 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

In some sign languages, pointing is used as a pronoun. It makes different distinctions to the ones made by English pronouns. In English, he, she, this, that and it are different. He and him are ...
Robyn's user avatar
  • 281
13 votes
Accepted

Are some human languages significantly less ambiguous than others?

Has anyone attempted to quantify the relative ambiguity of languages and to rank them? Your timing is excellent! The most comprehensive study I've seen on this topic was published less than a week ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.3k
12 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

Aside from obviative third person pronouns mentioned by OmarL, some languages have what are known as 'reflexive' pronouns. These pronouns refer directly back to the subject of the clause that they are ...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar
10 votes

Wordplay in ancient texts

Aristophanes (Knights 21–26), much earlier than the Philogelos, punned on repeating molōmen auto, molōmen auto "let us go, that" ending up sounding like the taboo automolōmen "let us desert". ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

Do valid sentences of phrases that have different meanings in different languages exist? How are they called?

There doesn't seem to be an accepted name for this type of bilingual punning. "Bilingual sentence" might seem appropriate, but it would ambiguously describe both the phenomenon of sentences that ...
Typhon's user avatar
  • 1,023
7 votes
Accepted

How do natural languages prevent word ambiguity in "compound words"?

Natural languages don't do this, ambiguities happen. An example is the German word Staubecken that can be analysed in two ways: Stau-becken "pond, basin, dam reservoir" and Staub-ecken, ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes

Eliminating potential meanings of an ambiguous phrase because if they meant XYZ, they'd have written differently: What is this inference called?

I'd say "implicature" or "using Grice's Maxims" (specifically, the maxim of quantity, I think)
matan-matika's user avatar
  • 2,364
5 votes

Are some human languages significantly less ambiguous than others?

Languages per se are not ambiguous or not ambiguous. Rather, instances of language - sentences, phrases, words... - are. All natural languages evolved to allow varying degrees of ambiguity/...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
5 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

One feature that disambiguates your specific example is logophoricity. A logophoric pronoun refers to the speaker/thinker/writer/feeler in the higher clause. Ewe is a Niger-Congo language with this ...
Greg Nisbet's user avatar
  • 1,288
5 votes

How do natural languages prevent word ambiguity in "compound words"?

How do natural languages like English or Spanish (or any other) deal with creating words so they don't run into this ambiguity problem? As jk said, they don't. Suppose I tell you that a door is "...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.3k
5 votes

Languages that distinguish between objective vs. subjective genitives

English has two main types of genitive construction, the "Saxon genitive" (John's) and the "prepositional genitive" (of John). When they're used together, the Saxon genitive is ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.3k
4 votes

Syntactic and semantic ambiguity

Syntactic ambiguity can imply semantic ambiguity: — He caught the bird in his pyjamas. — What was the bird doing in his pyjamas? (Where does the preposition phrase attach?) But whether you ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
  • 2,442
4 votes

Do any spoken languages readily express boolean logic without ambiguity?

Let's say that by "Boolean logic" you mean "Formal logic", and, moreover, let's restrict your question to the example you are commenting about, rather than to the whole logic. A ...
Artemij Keidan's user avatar
4 votes
Accepted

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

Your question assumes that spelling reform is easy as well as desirable. A brief survey of recent attempts at spelling reform in French and German will show how difficult it is to accomplish even ...
yutu's user avatar
  • 196
4 votes
Accepted

Can ambiguous sentences be ungrammatical?

As a native speaker, I reject the claim that the string plus reading "like those of a bear" is ungrammatical: the string is well-formed and it has both readings. But it is well established ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
3 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

Both Italian and Spanish spelling are very consistent. Italian is very simple. In Italian, C before A, O and U produces a [k] sound but the ch sound before I and E. If you want a [k] sound before I ...
Akshat Goswami's user avatar
3 votes
Accepted

Sentence ambiguitiy

There are two sources of ambiguity in the sentence: the scope of every- and the base position of the causal interrogative pronoun Why. The first of these sources is mentioned in the question: either ...
Tim Osborne's user avatar
  • 5,747
3 votes

Does this sentence have two meanings?

The two senses are specific and non-specific: Specific: A certain person, who happens to be an employee, must leave. ("Employee" is not in the scope of "must".) Non-specific: There is a requirement ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 12.5k
3 votes

Wordplay in ancient texts

One piece of ancient wordplay is the statement attributed to the oracle at Dodona: Ibis redibis nunquam per bella peribis which, depending on how you group the words, can be taken to bear either of ...
Rosie F's user avatar
  • 602
3 votes

Wordplay in ancient texts

I believe the first recorded occurrence of a pun in written text was around 2100 BC, in the language of the Sumerians. In the epic of Gilgamesh when Utnapishtim warns the ruler of his city about the ...
Reuben Crimp's user avatar
3 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

This is not the exact answer to the question, but I think it is still relevant. The Czech language still has this particular ambiguity the same as English in this particular sentence, but I think that ...
Petrusion's user avatar
  • 131
3 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

It's a constructed language, but Lojban has a number of ways to resolve this, which is not surprising since one of its main design goals is exactly to allow speakers to avoid ambiguity. The first one ...
BackusNaur's user avatar
3 votes

How good are humans at anaphora?

The claim that "all languages are equivalent in their expressive capability" is true yet doesn't mean what you think it means. It only means that every proposition can be somehow expressed ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
2 votes

Are there sentence boundary disambiguation algorithms which can handle punctuation errors with decent accuracy?

I built a sentence segmenter that works excellently on unpunctuated or partially punctuated text too. You can find it at https://github.com/bedapudi6788/deepsegment . This models is based on the idea ...
Praneeth Bedapudi's user avatar
2 votes

Conversational Implicature vs. Ambiguity

There is no point to quarreling over definitions. If you want to take cancellability as criterial for what you will call "conversational implicature", then go ahead and do that. Or, if you don't, ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 12.5k
2 votes

Interpreting different types of ambiguity in a sentence

There is some research to answer the "how", I am mainly aware of a community called Computational Neurolinguistics where they do experiments with humans and language understanding and relate the ...
peschü's user avatar
  • 251
2 votes

In German, doesn't using 'von' for agents of passive sentences result in ambiguity?

Like with any overloaded preposition it is possible to construct examples which are ambiguous, especially out of context. And it is trivially easy to construct examples which are grammatically ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
2 votes
Accepted

Enumerating the possible Pinyin -> Hanzi transcriptions

There are a multitude of online pinyin to Hanzi converters as well as several pinyin-based IMEs that do what you want but not in a way that you can include them in your own program. Over on the ...
acattle's user avatar
  • 2,898

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible