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 ...
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  • 4,348
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 ...
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  • 281
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 ...
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11 votes

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 ...
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11 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Southern European languages? 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 ...
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  • 16.3k
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". ...
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7 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 ...
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  • 1,003
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, ...
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5 votes

Earley Parser: Ambiguity

Earley parser is one example of chart parser, also called dynamic programming parser. There are many other kinds such as the CYK parser, the GLR and GLL parser, and more. The whole point of chart ...
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  • 1,497
5 votes

Can a case system in a language help resolve gramatical ambiguites?

Being a native speaker of Czech, which is quite close to Polish, I think ambiguity can be avoided, or at least reduced, to some extent. As for your Polish sentence, it would probably be wrong to use ...
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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/...
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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)
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  • 2,324
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 ...
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  • 2,218
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 ...
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4 votes

Can a case system in a language help resolve gramatical ambiguites?

In Polish, ambiguity in that case is not existent. I killed the man with a spoon (man with spoon) - Zabiłem człowieka z łyżką I killed the man with a spoon (using a spoon) - Zabiłem człowieka ...
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  • 1,388
4 votes

Can a case system in a language help resolve gramatical ambiguites?

The answer is, the case system can help avoid ambiguity, but it is not a silver bullet. From the functional standpoint, the example sentence is actually two distinct phrases: killed (a man who has a ...
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  • 8,550
4 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 ...
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  • 1,010
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 ...
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  • 69k
4 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 "...
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  • 53.3k
3 votes

Can a case system in a language help resolve gramatical ambiguites?

Some languages would have ambiguity between instrument and attributive possessum (and possibly also comitative `I went with a friend'), and some won't. This is not strictly dependent on case. For ...
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3 votes

Is there a grammar of syntax that takes into account inherent syntactic ambiguity in natural languages?

Yes, cognitive and construction grammars do take ambiguity into account. However, they have to give up a lot of the formal properties of traditional constituency and dependency grammars. It resolves ...
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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 ...
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  • 582
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 ...
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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 ...
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  • 12.3k
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 ...
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  • 5,320
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 ...
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  • 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 ...
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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 ...
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2 votes

Abbot & Costello "Who's on First" with a pragmatic (or other linguistic) perspective?

I would say that the primary thing going on in that routine is the break down of 'conversation repair'. The two interlocutors simply repeat the same conversation repair approach and do not learn from ...
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