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Ambiguity


Ambiguity


A.  What is ambiguity?
      Ambiguity is a word, phrase, or statement which contains more than one meaning. Ambiguity able to be understood in more than one way : having more than one possible meaning, not expressed or understood clearly. Ambiguity occurs when a language element has more than one meaning.
      Ambiguity has 2 part, that is lexical ambiguity and the grammatical or structural ambiguity. If the ambiguity is in a single word it is lexical ambiguity. We can illustrate lexical ambiguity with an example from Sue Townsend's Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Adrian displays a notice in school, advertising a gay society. When a teacher rebukes him, Adrian asks what is wrong with a club for people who want to be jolly or happy.
     If in a sentence or clause, it is grammatical or structural ambiguity. In this case, the structural ambiguity is not present to a reader who knows standard spelling, but might confuse a hearer, if the headline is spoken aloud. The absence of linking grammatical words (articles, conjunctions, prepositions) in headlines makes such ambiguity likely.

B.  Function of Ambiguity
  Ambiguity in literature serves the purpose of lending a deeper meaning to a literary work. By introducing ambiguity in their works, writers give liberty to the readers to use their imagination to explore meanings. This active participation of the readers involves them in the prose or poetry they read.

C.   Example of ambiguity
      1.  "I rode a black horse in red pajamas".
It is ambiguous to say I rode a black horse in red pajamas, because it may lead us to think the horse was wearing red pajamas. The sentence becomes clear when it is restructured Wearing red pajamas, I rode a black horse.
     2.   "John took off his trousers by the bank".
Same words with different meanings can cause ambiguity e.g. John took off his trousers by the bank. It is funny if we confuse one meaning of bank which is a building, to another meaning, being an edge of a river. Context usually resolves any ambiguity in such cases.
     3.   "A good life depends on a liver". Liver may be an organ or simply a living person.
     4.   "Foreigners are hunting dogs". It is unclear whether dogs were being hunted or foreigners are being spoken of as dogs.
     5.   "Each of us saw her duck". It is not clear whether the word duck refers to an action of ducking or a duck that is a bird.
     6.   "The passerby helps dog bite victim". Is the passerby helping a dog bite someone? Or is he helping a person bitten by a dog? Its not clear.
     7.   "I read the book". This sentence alone could refer to the present or the past, as the word read in English is spelled the same way in the present and past tenses. However, if we change the sentence toI read the book when I was 7, that clears up the ambiguity and places the context in the past tense.

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