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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Nov 20, 2022 in Questions about English Grammar by Chan Hiu Wai (240 points) | 244 views

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Ambiguity can occur through the attribution of multiple meanings within a single word. Ambiguity may also occur through the assignment of varying syntactic structures to sentences. Different perspectives of one thing lead to ambiguity. Hence, there are morphological, lexical, and syntactic ambiguities in the linguistic aspect.

Syntactic ambiguity can also be found in English. Below provided the different types of syntactic ambiguity.

Example 1: Tori saw the man with the telescope.

Certain types of ambiguous statements have many phrase structure trees, each with a distinct interpretation. Although none of the individual words are ambiguous, the statement Tori saw the man with the telescope is structurally ambiguous, as the complement of saw is simply the NP the man with the telescope in the meaning in which the man possesses the telescope. For meaning 1 tree, Tori is using the telescope to observe the man in this context.

Meaning 1 tree:                                    Meaning 2 tree: 

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Meaning 2 might be called the instrumental meaning because Tori is using the telescope to view the man. The words 'the man' and the prepositional phrase 'with the telescope' do not form a constituent in this tree.

The difference in meaning stems from the fact that in the first situation, the PP with the telescope is sister to (and therefore modifies) the man, but in the second case, it is sister to, and so modifications the V-bar see the man. Because syntax rules allow for multiple structures for the same linear sequence of words, two interpretations are possible. The phrases 'the man' and 'with a telescope' indeed constitute a component, indicating that the man is holding the telescope.

Furthermore, ambiguity can be caused by the meaning of words. When a word contains 2 or more meanings, the interpretations can be more than one. Lexical ambiguity occurs. Lexical ambiguity is classified into two types, homonymy, and polysemy. According to Demir (2020), homonymic words are words with two or more unrelated meanings. The word can be in different parts of speech with different meanings. It can modify different words in different semantic fields as well. polysemic words carry the continuity of meaning within a semantic field.  The word remains in the same part of speech but it refers to different meanings.


 


Reference 

Rodd, J. (2018). Lexical ambiguity. Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics, 120-144.

Demir, C. (2020). Lexical and Structural Ambiguities in Student Writing: An Assessment and Evaluation of Results. African Educational Research Journal, 8, 100-108.

Dai, W. (2021). A Tentative Approach to Ambiguity in English Sentences. Open Access Library Journal, 8,  1-8. DOI: 10.4236/oalib.1107918.

answered Nov 20, 2022 by Chan Hiu Wai (240 points)

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