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Grammar In ESL: Reasoning & Discussion, Lexical Ambiguity (Research Paper Sample)


grammar in esl

              FACULTY OF EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE (FEL)        SEPTEMBER 2017 SEMESTER         HBET2103     GRAMMAR IN ESL                         MATRICULATION NO.   :           920629125380001 IDENTITY CARD NO.      :           920629-12-5380 TELEPHONE NO.              :           016-8396253 E-MAIL                                :  LEARNING CENTRE       :           Sabah Learning Centre           TABLE OF CONTENTS
5.1  Lexical Ambiguity 5.2  Structural Ambiguity
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  1. 1.      INTRODUCTION
Languages are essential tools for human to communicate with each other and record and transfer information every day; and without it, we cannot communicate with each other properly. It is difficult to imagine the situation without language delivery and it is through language, either spoken or written, that people talk, share their thoughts, feelings and emotions (Longman Group UK, 1998). On another note, a natural language is not so perfectly designed to transfer all the information in an expected way, as some flaws in a language are inevitable. For instance, the ambiguity of a language, which causes confusion in people's common utterances. As a result, different interpretations of the same utterance may result in various interpretations and this may create a misunderstanding between the listener and speaker. This misunderstanding is called ambiguity, which is the result of the difficulty of comprehension of listeners. This ambiguity is actually quite a common phenomenon among different languages as there are often certain ambiguous words and sentences appearing in human's utterances and acquiring a more precise clarification from the speakers (Matthews, 1997).   The purpose of this assignment is to understand lexical and structural ambiguity and decide whether it is easy to understand lexical and structural ambiguity as a second language (L2) speaker of English (Saeed, 2003). Hence, this assignment attempts to focus on explaining the lexical and structural ambiguity as well as to give reasoning to support my stand. Literature review is provided to support each of the reason I offered for my stand on whether it is easy to understand lexical and structural ambiguity as a L2 speaker of English (Clough, 1989).   Ambiguity arises when a single word or phrase is associated in the language system with more than one meaning, which means a sentence can be interpreted in different ways and it may be caused by multiple meanings of one word (lexical ambiguity), by different structures of a sentence (structural ambiguity), or even by a combination of lexical and structural ambiguity.    
Lexical ambiguity occurs when there is an ambiguous word or phrase (which has more than one possible meaning) within a sentence (Cruse, 2000). It is also known as semantic ambiguity, and this phenomenon is a result of polysemy, which refers to the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase. Lexical ambiguity is sometimes used deliberately to create pun and other wordplays; some writers and speakers even use this kind of ambiguity as an element of literature to make a sentence more meaningfully (Fromkin et al., 2006). These are some examples of lexical ambiguity:   (a)   We saw her duck. It could mean either we saw her pet animal (noun) or we saw her bend to avoid something (duck could be a verb).   (b)  The minister married his sister. It could mean either his sister married the minister or the minister performed his sister’s wedding ceremony.   (c)   Jamie cannot bear children. It could mean either Jamie cannot give birth to children or Jamie cannot tolerate children.   (d)  The angler went to the bank. It could mean either the angler went to the riverbank or the angler went to the financial institution.   Most of these ambiguities do not cause a problem in a discourse, as readers/listeners are able to speculate the meanings, which the writers/speakers want to express with the context. For instance,   “We saw her duck when we visited her home last year. She made a huge pond in her backyard to keep it.”   Duck here refers to an animal (noun), not the action (verb), as implied by the huge pond in her backyard to keep the duck.  
Structural ambiguity occurs when a string of words or sentence has more than one possible meaning or underlying structure (ambiguous phrase or sentence); as such a sentence can be interpreted in more than one way (Katz, 1972). It refers to the situation in which that even though each word is clear in a sentence, the sentence may still have different interpretations because the words of a sentence are related to each other in various ways. These are some examples of structural ambiguity:   (a)   The thief threatened Jack with the knife. It could mean either the thief used the knife to threaten Jack or the thief threatened Jack who was holding the knife.   (b)  The professor said on Friday she would give an exam. It could mean either (i) The exam will be on Friday; or (ii) On Friday, the professor said she would give an exam.   (c)   Visiting friends...
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