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A word, phrase, or
sentence is
ambiguous if it has
more than one
meaning. In other
words ambiguity
has more than one

➢ Lexical Ambiguity
➢ Syntactic Ambiguity
➢ Semantic Ambiguity
❑ The presence of two or more possible meanings within a single word
❑ Results from different word forms of the same sound
❑ By far the most common ambiguity used to create puns and other
types of word play

Not very heavy Not very dark

These are glasses. Of
course, you can also call
them spectacles.

And these are also glasses.

Wine glasses, actually.

an institution Edge of a river

I saw bats.

Bank - an institution
- side of the riverside.
saw - past tense of see
- to cut with a saw

a. He saw nocturnal mammals.

b. He saw sport equipments used for hockey or cricket.
c. He cut bats(nocturnal mammals) with a saw.
d. He cut bats (sports equipments) with a saw.
Did you record all your expenses?

record - taking notes

- to be registered/filed on something

a. Asking if all the expenses was put down in writing;

b. Asking if all the expenses (including the old once if any) was kept in a
Lexical ambiguity can be created because of homonymy and polysemy:
Polysemes are words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings.


I forgot my magazine in the car.

The magazine fired some of its employees.

The word ‘magazine’ refer to the object itself as well as the company of that magazine.

Dickens is one of the most popular writers in the world.

Could you please lend me your Dickens.

A noun referring to a famous writer called Charles Dickens whereas in sentence Dickens
refers to a book which is written by Charles Dickens.
Homonyms are words with the same spelling and/or pronunciation that has entirely two
or more distinct meanings


Pen : holding area for animals

: used for writing (device)
book :a reading material
: to make reservation
band : a ring
: a musical group
Concepts related to homonymy:

Homographs - words that are spelled the same have but different meanings.

Ex.: bark - sound of a dog bow - to bend at the waste

- skin of a tree - a piece of archery equipment

Homophones - are words that sound alike but different meaning, and they are often
spelled differently.

Ex.: to, two, too there, they’re, their

mat, matte hail, hale

Homonym different same same

Homograph different same same or different

Homophone different Same or different same

different but
Polyseme same same or different
Lexical Ambiguity Examples:

a. The Rabbi married my sister.

b. She is looking for a match.
c. The fisherman went to the bank.
d. I have a really good stepladder. Sadly, I never knew my real
e. Rose [a person] rose [stood] to put rose [pink-colored] roes [fish
eggs as fertilizer] on her rows of roses [flower].
f. The painter put on another coat.
g. The tailor pressed one suit in his shop and one in the municipal
❑ The presence of two or multiple possible meanings within a single
sentence or sequence of words.
❑ This is often due to modifying expression, such as prepositional phrase.
❑ Also reffered to as syntactic ambiguity/amphiboly
►The arrangement of words and phrases to create well
formed phrases, clauses or sentences in a language.
►In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles and
processes that govern the structure of sentences in a
given language, specifically word order and
Syntactic ambiguity arises not from the range of meanings of single words, but from the relationship
between the words and clauses of a sentence, and the sentence structure underlying the word
order therein. In other words, a sentence is syntactically ambiguous when a reader or listener can
reasonably interpret one sentence as having more than one possible structure.

Does this mean “She killed the man who

was wearing the tie” OR “She used the
tie to kill the man”?
a. Porcelain egg container.

Is it an egg container made

of porcelain?

Or is it a container for
porcelain eggs?
Im going to kill the cat with my tie.
They saw the man with the telescope.
❑ happens when a sentence contains an ambiguous word or phrase—
a word or phrase that has more than one meaning.
❑ Presents properties of both lexical and structural ambiguity
Prepared by:
Honeylit Quinto
Ma. Rhodora Theodorosa Ma. Nieva