Ambiguity

What is the picture? a saxophone player or a woman? It is an ambiguous picture.

 

The picture above is the representation of ambiguity. Ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meaning in a passage. A word, phrase, or sentence is ambiguous if it has more than one possible meaning. In other word, a word, phrase, or sentence that has only one meaning is not ambiguous. For example, the word “Duck” it can be “a horse” or “a snap”; the word “leaves” can mean “the present form of left” or “the plural form of leaf”.

 

There are three types of ambiguity:

1. Semantic Ambiguity (Usually an Idiom)

2. Structural or Syntactic ambiguity (When a headline may have more than one alternative structure and ambivalent structure)

3. Lexical Ambiguity (A word or  phrase that has more than one meaning while it stands in a sentence).

 

To get more understanding about the types of ambiguity, let us study the example and the resolving of ambiguity bellow.

 

  1. 1. SEMANTICAL AMBIGUITY EXAMPLE AND ANALYZING

1 Headline : I wanna see John.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word of “John” can be interpreted as someone name or toilet. If it is interpreted as toiled, it means that the sentence I want to see John is a polite expression that someone wants to go to a toilet. Meanwhile if it is interpreted as someone name, it means that he want to meet someone named John.

 

Actually, “I wanna see John” is an idiom that is used to express a polite request to go to toilet.

What makes headline humorous : The sentence can be easily interpreted that someone wants to meet someone named John. But, it is actually an idiom that is interpreted as polite request to go to toilet.
2 Headline : You lose your job? Look on the bright side; you will have more free time.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Look on the bright side” is an idiom that is interpreted as thinking something positive when we got a trouble or problem. Meanwhile if it is not interpreted as an idiom it will have different meaning that is “looking at the bright side”.
What makes headline humorous : “Look on the bright side” maybe can be easily interpreted as seeing a bright place by the reader. So it will be interpreted by: “when you lost your job, just look the bright place that you will have more free time”.

 

3 Headline : John was given the ax two days before New Year.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : John can be interpreted as someone name or a toilet, meanwhile the meaning of “given the ax” is actually someone gets fired on a job instead an ax is given to someone.
What makes headline humorous : If the word of “John” is interpreted as Toilet it will be, Toilet is faired two days before New Year. Meanwhile, toilet is unanimated thing, so it is impossible that toilet has a job, or a toilet is given an ax two days before New Year.
4 Headline : Will you give me my new laptop?

When pig fly!

Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “When pig fly” is an idiom that has a meaning as “never”, instead “when pig can fly”
What makes headline humorous : The real meaning of it is “never” rather than pig can fly, pig has no wings, so it will never be able to fly.
5 Headline : Something went wrong with my neighbor’s car alarm system, and the alarm wouldn’t stop ringing all night.
Ambiguity type : Semantic ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Went wrong” is an idiom that easily interpreted as a mistake. It means that there is something wrong or trouble in something.
What makes headline humorous :
6 Headline : The judge threw the book at Matt for stealing a football from the store. He’ll be going to jail for six months.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “The Judge threw the book at Matt” is also an idiom that is interpreted by “giving Matt a punishment” instead threw a book to Matt.
What makes headline humorous : This sentence can be easily read by “the judge is throwing a book to Matt, rather than the Judge punishes Matt because of his mistake”. So it means that the judge will be in the jail for six months. And impossible that the judge will be in the jail for six months.
7 Headline : Please stop chewing gum so loudly. It’s driving me crazy!
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The idiom of “it’s driving me crazy” is interpreted by “annoying someone very much” instead “a gum is chewed”
What makes headline humorous : It’s something impossible that chewing gum can make someone becomes crazy.
8 Headline : You’d better break the news to your father carefully.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Break the news” is also an idiom. It is interpreted by “making something known” instead “to break or crush news”
What makes headline humorous : It may easily be read not as an idiom. Therefore it will be that the subject “you” wants to break news. Meanwhile, news is abstract thing, so it cannot be broken.
9 Headline : Frank’s new business failed, so he had to go back to the drawing board.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Go back to the drawing board” is also an idiom, it express that something must start again from the beginning because of failure instead  approaching drawing board.
What makes headline humorous : It can be easily interpreted that “go back to drawing board” is “someone approaches drawing board”. So, if someone got failure in job, he or she just finds a drawing board to solve his/ her problem.
10 Headline : George is really poor. He lives from hand to mouth.
Ambiguity type : Semantic Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Live from hand to mouth” is an idiom that is used to express that someone barely has enough money to survive.
What makes headline humorous :

  1. 2. STRUCTURAL AMBIGUITY EXAMPLE AND ANALYZING

1 Headline : Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter.
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This ambiguous sentence represented two alternative ambivalent structures:

  1. After 18 years they didn’t meet, and finally they meet in the check in counter. or
  2. After 18 years in the check in counter, they just reunited.
What makes headline humorous : It can easily be read that two sisters have been in the check in counter for 18 years, and they have just reunited after 18 years in it.
2 Headline : Riza is rocking baby
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence can be represented in to two alternative ambivalent structure, they are?

  1. (Present continuous tense) that the baby was rocked by Riza. or
  2. (Noun Phrase of “Rocking Baby”) that Riza is the baby that rocks.
What makes headline humorous :
3 Headline : I promise I’ll give you a ring tomorrow
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : “Giving someone a ring” can simply mean calling them on the telephone. But, obviously, the above sentence can also mean giving someone a piece of jewelry worn on the finger.
What makes headline humorous :
4 Headline : Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence can simply means:

  1. Dog bite victim is helped by the squad, or
  2. The squad helps the dog to bite the victim
What makes headline humorous : The headline can easily be read as the representation in The squad helps the dog to bite the victim, which is humorous, because the squad must save the victim instead the dog to bite the victim.
5 Headline : There were a tall man and woman come to your house yesterday.
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The headline’s two alternative syntactic representations make it structurally ambivalent:

  1. There were two tall people, they are the tall man and tall woman, or
  2. Someone who is tall is only the man.
What makes deadline humorous : The headline makes the reader confuses, it is because tall man and tall woman can be written by tall man and woman, it makes the reader confuse but it is humorous thing.
6 Headline : The man saw the boy with the binoculars.
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The headline’s two alternative syntactic representations make it structurally ambivalent:

  1. The man saw the boy using binoculars, or
  2. The man saw the boy who brings a binoculars.

 

It was ambiguous sentence.

What makes headline humorous :
7 Headline : They are hunting dog
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The headline’s two alternative syntactic representations make it structurally ambivalent:

  1. Some people are hunting dogs (they = human), or
  2. They are dogs that trained to hunt. (they = dogs)
What makes headline humorous :
8 Headline : The kiwi eats roots and leaves
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The headline’s two alternative syntactic representations make it structurally ambivalent:

  1. Root and leaf are what kiwi eats, or
  2. After kiwi eats the roots, he leaves the place where he eats the roots.

 

It is also ambiguous sentence

What makes headline humorous :
9 Headline : He likes old men and women
Ambiguity type : Structural Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence could mean that he likes old men and old women or old men and all women, because the adjective “old” is placed ambiguously
What makes headline humorous :
 

 

 

  1. 3. LEXICAL AMBIGUITY EXAMPLE AND ANALYZING

1 Headline : Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : Actually, this sentence is a valid sentence. This sentence use homonyms and homophone to create complex sentence construction.

 

It can be read in another way:

“That is, bison from Buffalo intimidate (other) bison from Buffalo that bison from Buffalo intimidate.”

 

Here is the analyzing:

Buffalo (Proper Noun, “The name of city in New York “Buffalo”) buffalo ( Noun, “the name of animal) Buffalo ((Proper Noun, “The name of city in New York “Buffalo”) buffalo (Noun, “the name of animal) buffalo ( Verb “to bully”) buffalo (Verb “to bully”) Buffalo (the name of city) buffalo (a name of animal)

The complex structure makes this sentence becomes ambiguous.

 

What makes headline humorous humorous : The sentence that is only constructed by the word of buffalo, make this sentence very confusing, if it is not understood it will create humorous thing. What is the meaning of the sentence? It is confusing, but it is humorous.
2 Headline : Rose rose to put rose rose on her rows of roses
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence use homonym and homophone to create a complex sentence structure. It is very ambiguous in the class of word. Rose can be a noun (the name of person and a name of flower). Meanwhile rose can be a verb (the past form of rise (grow or stood).

 

The analyzing of the sentence is:

Rose (a girl name) rose (the past form of rise “stood”) to put a rose (The name of flower) rose (grown) on her rows of roses (Rose Flowers)

 

It can be read in another way:

The girl named Rose stood to put a grown rose flower on her rows of roses.

What makes headline humorous : The complex sentence structure which uses a number of rose word makes this sentence very ambiguous, but it makes the sentence feels humorous.
3 Headline : If it is it, it is it, if it is, it is it, it is!
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence has correct structure, but it is very ambiguous what the sentence means. The word of “it” is a pronoun (the third singular person), it can be both of subject and object in a sentence. But it has ambiguous meaning if the word of stand alone in the sentence without a noun that is stated in previous sentence.

 

So, the word of it in this sentence has many possible meaning, but it is ambiguous.

What makes headline humorous : The headline that makes humorous is the structure of the sentence. It is constructed from the word that has many possible meaning and ambiguous meaning. It is what makes the headline humorous.
4 Headline : It was and I said not are and and and are are different.
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : This sentence also very confusing, the word of and may be stand as conjunction in the sentence. Meanwhile the word of are may stand as the verb “be” of the sentence.

 

But, both of “and” and “are” may stand as noun (they are kinds of conjunction that is mentioned in the sentence).

 

Here it is the analyzing:

It was “and”/ I said /not “are”/ and/ “and” and “are”/ are/ different//.

What makes headline humorous : It can be understood that sentence structure is wrong, and it make confusing why the structure is right. But it makes the ambiguous sentence becomes humorous.
5 Headline : But and and and and and and and and and so are all pairs of conjunctions.
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word of and in this sentence can be stand as conjunction. But it also can be a noun (kind of conjunction). Meanwhile, the word of “(and) and (and)” “(but) and (and)” “(and) and (so)” are the kind of conjunction that are discussed in the sentence instead the conjunction of the sentence.

 

It can be read as bellow:

“But” and “and”/ and/ “and” and “and”/ and/ “and” and “so”/ are all pairs of conjunctions//

What makes headline humorous : The confusing in understanding the meaning of the sentence is what makes the headline humorous.
6 Headline : Victor writes a note in the peace of paper.
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word of note has two possible meaning. The first, the word of note can be a musical tone. And the second, it can be a short written record. Therefore, what Victor writes is. It is may a musical tone or short written record.
What makes headline humorous :
7 Headline : Stud tires out
Ambiguity type : Lexical ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word of stud is the problem of this sentence. Stud can be kind of an animal, horse. And it can be a snap.
What makes headline humorous : Snap (stud) is an unanimated thing, so it is impossible for snap to tire out.
8 Headline : He saw her duck
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word of duck can be a verb (ducking down) or Noun (a pet duck). If the word of “duck” stands as verb it means that “the guy saw the girl actually ducking down. And, if it stands as Noun it means that “the guy saw the girl pet duck”.
What makes headline humorous :
9 Headline : I don’t like this type
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity
Identification and explanation : The word “type” has two possible alternative meanings. The first is characteristic, and the second is a printer.

Therefore it can be interpreted as:

  1. I don’t like this characteristic
  2. or, I don’t like this printer.
What makes headline humorous :
10 Headline : The rocker dances in the house.
Ambiguity type : Lexical Ambiguity.
Identification and explanation : The word of rocker may have two possible meaning. That is rock singer or a rock chair.
What makes deadline humorous : Chair is an unanimated thing, so it is impossible for a chair to dance.

 

Now I hope that you understand about the lesson.

12 thoughts on “Ambiguity

  1. Yangxing cleaners, according to South Avenue, introduced around 1 pm yesterday, this nearly 60-year-old grandson took her mother Purchased New Year Exhibition Center in Nanping, the South Boulevard preparing to cross the opposite the bus stop. They smooth the road through the direction of the city, the central station to the road green belt, when the two directions for the road again through the city when speeding by a direction from the Nanping from the white van Zhuang Fei Chang . The cleaner said that in the moment of the incident, the mother pushing a bit with the grandchildren, while his mother was immediately Zhuangfei a few meters away, the grandchildren are lucky enough to lay the van vehicle.

    doctors confirmed by the 120 arrived, the old man has died on the spot, her 3-year-old grandson conscious, but severely frightened. Children’s Hospital nurse told reporters that the child has made a thorough examination, in addition to facial abrasions, the moment everything is normal. Subsequently, the child’s family rushed to the hospital after hearing the news. Doctors said that the current child needs further observation.

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    1. No, I don’t. One of the source can be found at “an Introduction to English Morphology”. If you confuse with the author just search it at “4shared.com”. The key is “morphology”. Good luck!

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