Language and Ambiguity: Psycholinguistic Perspectives
This chapter, based largely on a paper originally written in 1976, deals with the problem of ambiguity as it relates to language acquisition and translation by both mind and machine. We define ambiguity as a linguistic situation capable of more than one interpretation and that obviously has bearing on the accuracy of translation. We enumerate five levels of ambiguity and describe the problem each of these ambiguity levels poses for a translation machine. We note, in contrast, that the mind is able to resolve these ambiguities virtually without thought, and we offer an explanation as to why this is so. We identify several psycholinguistic operations believed to be associated with the acquisition of a second language and that account for the progress of gifted learners, the ambiguities of language notwithstanding. We liken sentence analysis by a translation machine to human language acquisition, and proceed to show how the psycholinguistic factors involved in language acquisition, if simulated in the computer, enable the machine to cope with ambiguities with greater success than might otherwise be possible. Finally, we offer some classic examples of syntactic and semantic ambiguities that illustrate the disambiguating power of these psycholinguistic functions simulated in Logos Model.
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