Lexical and Structural Ambiguity Examples

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7th Jun 2017 English Language Reference this

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Language is the most important thing in our life. People communicate with others by using language. Without language we cannot communicate with other people properly. Even deaf or dump people can communicate with others by using their special language or sign language. People talk, share their thought, feeling and emotion through language either spoken or written. In the world, there are many different languages in different countries. It is possible that there are many languages used in one country. Although have so many different languages, people use it for one reason, that is to communicate. They communicate with each other either spoken or written through sentences.

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Sometimes people do not get what we said to them. It is not because they do not hear it or something. However, occasionally we say a sentence which has more than one meaning. As a result, the listeners will have some different interpretations and this will make confusion for the listener. In this case, this misunderstanding is called an ambiguity. We can find ambiguous sentences everywhere, not only when people say something to us or spoken but we can also find it in written forms, like in the book, newspaper, magazine, and so on. This ambiguity can happen if there are more than one meaning which can be interpreted by the people who read or listen to the ambiguous sentences or phrases.

There are three kinds of ambiguity according to Ullmann (as cited in Tambunan 202, 204); phonetic, grammatical or structural, and lexical ambiguity. Phonetic ambiguity appears in spoken only, e.g. when we say near, not all people will catch near as the meaning of close by or next to. Nevertheless, some people can misunderstand what they hear. They can possibly hear near as an ear or a near as well. Meanwhile, in his book, Pateda () said Grammatical or structural ambiguity appears because of the resemblance of phrase. Each word which forms a phrase actually should be clear, but the combination can be interpreted more than one meaning. For example in the sentence I met a number of old friends and acquaintances. The word old (past or someone who has been already old, in this case about age matter) in this sentence can be connected with friends (people who you know well but not in family members) and acquaintances which means people that you have met but do not know well. In that sentence, where is meant by the past, is it friends or acquaintances? In lexical ambiguity it has been explained that each word can contain more than one meaning. A word can lead to something different according to the usage.

As the writer mentioned above, apparently ambiguous sentences or phrases can be shown in the written forms. Based on this research, the writer chooses the source of data from a newspaper, especially in the titles of each section which most likely contains ambiguous meaning. Because nowadays we find so many newspaper which contains ambiguous meaning in it, either in the content or the title. This is happening because in this modern era, language is changed. Trask (92) said that language has changed, and many of the old words have disappeared and been replaced by the new words. Other words have survived, but have changed either their forms or their meanings so much that we can barely recognize them.

In this research the writer chooses a local Indonesian newspaper, that is Suara Merdeka. It is the largest Indonesian daily newspaper in Central Java, Indonesia which is made in Semarang, Central Java. There are some sections that are offered by this news, such as headline, business, advertisement, your letters, entertainment, and so on. In this paper, the writer will conduct a research in the news title of each section. Since the data is taken from newspaper, the writer will take some titles which most likely has ambiguous meaning in both lexically and structurally.

FIELD OF THE STUDY

This research is in the field of Linguistics.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

In this paper the writer focuses on lexical and structural ambiguity in the title news of each section in Suara Merdeka newspaper. The data of this research are taken from all titles in each section of the newspaper which has ambiguous meaning.

PROBLEM FORMULATION

The research question can be formulated as follows:

Which words, sentences or phrases are possibly ambiguous?

What parts of speech are lexically ambiguous?

Which type of ambiguity is the most dominant?

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The objectives of this paper are to answer the problem of this research which is mentioned above. They are:

  • To find out words, sentence or phrases are possibly ambiguous.
  • To analyze the part of speech of words that can be lexically ambiguous.
  • To determine the most dominant type of ambiguity.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The result of this study provides the readers to improve their ability in understanding the ambiguous sentence, phrase, or word in written language. This research will contribute as the reference for the study of semantics and syntax in teaching and learning activity. Moreover for the people who are interested in lexical and structural ambiguity for their research.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Ambiguity

Ambiguity appears when something has more than one possible meaning and may therefore cause confusion (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 43).

Lexical Ambiguity

According to Grenat and Taher in Al – satil journal (10), lexical ambiguity refers to the type of ambiguity those results from the occurrence of homonyms.

Structural Ambiguity

A sentence is called structurally ambiguous if there is more than one complete structural description that may be assigned to it (Tesar, par. 1).

LITERARY VIEW

Semantic Theories

As a branch of linguistics, semantics is defined as the study of the meaning. Yule (100) says that

“Semantics deals with the conventional meaning conveyed by the use of words, phrases and sentences of a language.”

In semantics it can be seen what is meant by meaning, the kinds of meaning, anything which is connected by meaning, the components of meaning, whether meaning is changed or not, why meaning can be changed, either each word has only one meaning or more, how we comprehend the meaning of a word or sentence easily, everything can be traced through semantics (Pateda 2).

Meaning

There are two ways in investigating meaning of words in a sentence; conceptual and associative meaning. Conceptual meaning is the basic components of meaning carry on literal use of words. For example, the word needle has the meaning of sharp, thin, an instrument for sewing. Associative meaning is like the connotation of words. For example, the word needle has the meaning of pain, illness, drug, thread, or knitting. In this association meaning, it is possible that each person may have different interpretations (Yule 100).

“An idea has to be sent clearly and meaningfully, so it will not cause misunderstanding in communication. Ambiguity can cause wrong perception in people’s mind when evaluating something” (Suryaslavia 7).

Ambiguity

According to Clare (par 4), something is called ambiguous when it can be understood in two or more possible senses or ways.

A word or sentence is ambiguous when it has more than one sense. A sentence is ambiguous if it has two (or more) paraphrases which are not themselves paraphrases of each other. For example, We saw her duck is a paraphrase of We saw her lower her head and of We saw the duck belonging to her. In this case, we consider that We saw her duck is ambiguous (Hurford and Heasley 121).

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“Ambiguity can arise in a sentence for a number of reasons; through the ascription of multiple meanings to single words, through the assignment of different syntactic structures to a sentence, or through the use of certain expression that may have semantic scope” (Cann 8).

Lexical Ambiguity

Lexical ambiguity according to Hurford and Heasley (128) is any ambiguity resulting from the ambiguity of a word. For example in the sentence The captain corrected the list is lexically ambiguous. The word list has two possible meanings, either record (short pieces of information, such as people’s name) or lean (in a ship).

Lexical ambiguity can be created from because of polysemy and homophony (O’Grady 270).

Polysemy

Polysemy occurs where a word has two or more related meanings.

Example:

– Bright : shining, intelligent

– To glare : to shine intensely, to stare angrily

– A deposit : minerals in the earth, money in the bank

Homophony

Homophony exists where a single form has two or more entirely distinct meanings. For example, the word bat has the meaning either a flying mouse-like nocturnal mammal or a piece of equipment used in cricket or baseball.

In this case, it is assumed that there are two or more separate words with the same pronunciation rather than a single word with different meanings.

Structural Ambiguity

Structural ambiguity appears because of the resemblance of phrase. Each word which forms a phrase actually should be clear, but the combination can be interpreted more than one meaning. For example in the sentence I met a number of old friends and acquaintances. The word old (past or someone who has been already old, in this case about age matter) in this sentence can be connected with friends (people who you know well but not in family members) and acquaintances which means people that you have met but do not know well. In that sentence, where is meant by the past, is it friends or acquaintances?

Structural ambiguity happens if there is a sentence which is ambiguous because its words relate each other in different ways, even though none words are ambiguous (Hufford 129 – 130).

Language of Newspapers

In his book, The Language of Newspaper; Socio – Historical Perspective, Conboy (1) says that the language of newspapers has always encapsulated what would they sell to the readers and how the information which they share could best be packaged and presented to achieve the commercial end at a certain time.

“The market-driven rationalization of the language of the new mass newspapers affected the grammar of the reduced sentences which were increasingly identifiable as journalistic. The twentieth-century newspaper’s language was shaped by a wave of technologies competing with the newspaper as the prime provider of topical information about the world. In newspapers today, we are witnessing the latest linguistic accommodation to changing social and commercial pressures. Newspapers have always striven to provide an elaborated form of conversation with their audiences, to be something more than a dry account of the events of the day (Conboy 2).”

Previous Study

In Faculty of Letters, Unika Soegijapranata there have been thre theses discussing about Ambiguity. Marsha Marieanne (2011), The Analysis of Ambiguity in Printed Consumer Goods Indonesian Advertisements investigates the classification of the ambiguous taglines in printed Indonesian consumer goods advertisements.

Doncy Suryaslavia (2005), Lexical and Structural Ambiguity on Television Advertisements focuses on a classification of Indonesian television advertisements which contain lexical or structural ambiguity.

Arkhid Awful (2005), People’s Interpretstion of the Advertisement Containing Ambiguous Sentences or Phrases talks about interpretation of people concerning the ambiguous sentences or phrases in the advertisement.

The difference between those three theses from the write’s study is that the writer focuses on the lexical and structural ambiguity found in news titles. The writer will conduct a research on each section of the newspaper and find any titles which most likely have ambiguous meaning.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Method of Data Collection

The aim of this study is to analyze the lexical and structural ambiguity in the newpaper titles. The writer conducts a reasearch from Indonesian local newspaper, that is Suara Merdeka. She takes the data from each section of the newspaper which most likely contains ambiguous meaning and she will analyze it based on the lexical and structural ambiguity.

Instrument

1.2 Procedure

Method of Data Analysis

Reading the selected data

Identifying the words, phrases, and sentences which are possibly ambiguous.

Classifying them into the types of ambiguity whether lexical or structural ambiguity.

Language is the most important thing in our life. People communicate with others by using language. Without language we cannot communicate with other people properly. Even deaf or dump people can communicate with others by using their special language or sign language. People talk, share their thought, feeling and emotion through language either spoken or written. In the world, there are many different languages in different countries. It is possible that there are many languages used in one country. Although have so many different languages, people use it for one reason, that is to communicate. They communicate with each other either spoken or written through sentences.

Sometimes people do not get what we said to them. It is not because they do not hear it or something. However, occasionally we say a sentence which has more than one meaning. As a result, the listeners will have some different interpretations and this will make confusion for the listener. In this case, this misunderstanding is called an ambiguity. We can find ambiguous sentences everywhere, not only when people say something to us or spoken but we can also find it in written forms, like in the book, newspaper, magazine, and so on. This ambiguity can happen if there are more than one meaning which can be interpreted by the people who read or listen to the ambiguous sentences or phrases.

There are three kinds of ambiguity according to Ullmann (as cited in Tambunan 202, 204); phonetic, grammatical or structural, and lexical ambiguity. Phonetic ambiguity appears in spoken only, e.g. when we say near, not all people will catch near as the meaning of close by or next to. Nevertheless, some people can misunderstand what they hear. They can possibly hear near as an ear or a near as well. Meanwhile, in his book, Pateda () said Grammatical or structural ambiguity appears because of the resemblance of phrase. Each word which forms a phrase actually should be clear, but the combination can be interpreted more than one meaning. For example in the sentence I met a number of old friends and acquaintances. The word old (past or someone who has been already old, in this case about age matter) in this sentence can be connected with friends (people who you know well but not in family members) and acquaintances which means people that you have met but do not know well. In that sentence, where is meant by the past, is it friends or acquaintances? In lexical ambiguity it has been explained that each word can contain more than one meaning. A word can lead to something different according to the usage.

As the writer mentioned above, apparently ambiguous sentences or phrases can be shown in the written forms. Based on this research, the writer chooses the source of data from a newspaper, especially in the titles of each section which most likely contains ambiguous meaning. Because nowadays we find so many newspaper which contains ambiguous meaning in it, either in the content or the title. This is happening because in this modern era, language is changed. Trask (92) said that language has changed, and many of the old words have disappeared and been replaced by the new words. Other words have survived, but have changed either their forms or their meanings so much that we can barely recognize them.

In this research the writer chooses a local Indonesian newspaper, that is Suara Merdeka. It is the largest Indonesian daily newspaper in Central Java, Indonesia which is made in Semarang, Central Java. There are some sections that are offered by this news, such as headline, business, advertisement, your letters, entertainment, and so on. In this paper, the writer will conduct a research in the news title of each section. Since the data is taken from newspaper, the writer will take some titles which most likely has ambiguous meaning in both lexically and structurally.

FIELD OF THE STUDY

This research is in the field of Linguistics.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

In this paper the writer focuses on lexical and structural ambiguity in the title news of each section in Suara Merdeka newspaper. The data of this research are taken from all titles in each section of the newspaper which has ambiguous meaning.

PROBLEM FORMULATION

The research question can be formulated as follows:

Which words, sentences or phrases are possibly ambiguous?

What parts of speech are lexically ambiguous?

Which type of ambiguity is the most dominant?

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The objectives of this paper are to answer the problem of this research which is mentioned above. They are:

  • To find out words, sentence or phrases are possibly ambiguous.
  • To analyze the part of speech of words that can be lexically ambiguous.
  • To determine the most dominant type of ambiguity.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The result of this study provides the readers to improve their ability in understanding the ambiguous sentence, phrase, or word in written language. This research will contribute as the reference for the study of semantics and syntax in teaching and learning activity. Moreover for the people who are interested in lexical and structural ambiguity for their research.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Ambiguity

Ambiguity appears when something has more than one possible meaning and may therefore cause confusion (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 43).

Lexical Ambiguity

According to Grenat and Taher in Al – satil journal (10), lexical ambiguity refers to the type of ambiguity those results from the occurrence of homonyms.

Structural Ambiguity

A sentence is called structurally ambiguous if there is more than one complete structural description that may be assigned to it (Tesar, par. 1).

LITERARY VIEW

Semantic Theories

As a branch of linguistics, semantics is defined as the study of the meaning. Yule (100) says that

“Semantics deals with the conventional meaning conveyed by the use of words, phrases and sentences of a language.”

In semantics it can be seen what is meant by meaning, the kinds of meaning, anything which is connected by meaning, the components of meaning, whether meaning is changed or not, why meaning can be changed, either each word has only one meaning or more, how we comprehend the meaning of a word or sentence easily, everything can be traced through semantics (Pateda 2).

Meaning

There are two ways in investigating meaning of words in a sentence; conceptual and associative meaning. Conceptual meaning is the basic components of meaning carry on literal use of words. For example, the word needle has the meaning of sharp, thin, an instrument for sewing. Associative meaning is like the connotation of words. For example, the word needle has the meaning of pain, illness, drug, thread, or knitting. In this association meaning, it is possible that each person may have different interpretations (Yule 100).

“An idea has to be sent clearly and meaningfully, so it will not cause misunderstanding in communication. Ambiguity can cause wrong perception in people’s mind when evaluating something” (Suryaslavia 7).

Ambiguity

According to Clare (par 4), something is called ambiguous when it can be understood in two or more possible senses or ways.

A word or sentence is ambiguous when it has more than one sense. A sentence is ambiguous if it has two (or more) paraphrases which are not themselves paraphrases of each other. For example, We saw her duck is a paraphrase of We saw her lower her head and of We saw the duck belonging to her. In this case, we consider that We saw her duck is ambiguous (Hurford and Heasley 121).

“Ambiguity can arise in a sentence for a number of reasons; through the ascription of multiple meanings to single words, through the assignment of different syntactic structures to a sentence, or through the use of certain expression that may have semantic scope” (Cann 8).

Lexical Ambiguity

Lexical ambiguity according to Hurford and Heasley (128) is any ambiguity resulting from the ambiguity of a word. For example in the sentence The captain corrected the list is lexically ambiguous. The word list has two possible meanings, either record (short pieces of information, such as people’s name) or lean (in a ship).

Lexical ambiguity can be created from because of polysemy and homophony (O’Grady 270).

Polysemy

Polysemy occurs where a word has two or more related meanings.

Example:

– Bright : shining, intelligent

– To glare : to shine intensely, to stare angrily

– A deposit : minerals in the earth, money in the bank

Homophony

Homophony exists where a single form has two or more entirely distinct meanings. For example, the word bat has the meaning either a flying mouse-like nocturnal mammal or a piece of equipment used in cricket or baseball.

In this case, it is assumed that there are two or more separate words with the same pronunciation rather than a single word with different meanings.

Structural Ambiguity

Structural ambiguity appears because of the resemblance of phrase. Each word which forms a phrase actually should be clear, but the combination can be interpreted more than one meaning. For example in the sentence I met a number of old friends and acquaintances. The word old (past or someone who has been already old, in this case about age matter) in this sentence can be connected with friends (people who you know well but not in family members) and acquaintances which means people that you have met but do not know well. In that sentence, where is meant by the past, is it friends or acquaintances?

Structural ambiguity happens if there is a sentence which is ambiguous because its words relate each other in different ways, even though none words are ambiguous (Hufford 129 – 130).

Language of Newspapers

In his book, The Language of Newspaper; Socio – Historical Perspective, Conboy (1) says that the language of newspapers has always encapsulated what would they sell to the readers and how the information which they share could best be packaged and presented to achieve the commercial end at a certain time.

“The market-driven rationalization of the language of the new mass newspapers affected the grammar of the reduced sentences which were increasingly identifiable as journalistic. The twentieth-century newspaper’s language was shaped by a wave of technologies competing with the newspaper as the prime provider of topical information about the world. In newspapers today, we are witnessing the latest linguistic accommodation to changing social and commercial pressures. Newspapers have always striven to provide an elaborated form of conversation with their audiences, to be something more than a dry account of the events of the day (Conboy 2).”

Previous Study

In Faculty of Letters, Unika Soegijapranata there have been thre theses discussing about Ambiguity. Marsha Marieanne (2011), The Analysis of Ambiguity in Printed Consumer Goods Indonesian Advertisements investigates the classification of the ambiguous taglines in printed Indonesian consumer goods advertisements.

Doncy Suryaslavia (2005), Lexical and Structural Ambiguity on Television Advertisements focuses on a classification of Indonesian television advertisements which contain lexical or structural ambiguity.

Arkhid Awful (2005), People’s Interpretstion of the Advertisement Containing Ambiguous Sentences or Phrases talks about interpretation of people concerning the ambiguous sentences or phrases in the advertisement.

The difference between those three theses from the write’s study is that the writer focuses on the lexical and structural ambiguity found in news titles. The writer will conduct a research on each section of the newspaper and find any titles which most likely have ambiguous meaning.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Method of Data Collection

The aim of this study is to analyze the lexical and structural ambiguity in the newpaper titles. The writer conducts a reasearch from Indonesian local newspaper, that is Suara Merdeka. She takes the data from each section of the newspaper which most likely contains ambiguous meaning and she will analyze it based on the lexical and structural ambiguity.

Instrument

1.2 Procedure

Method of Data Analysis

Reading the selected data

Identifying the words, phrases, and sentences which are possibly ambiguous.

Classifying them into the types of ambiguity whether lexical or structural ambiguity.

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