stepgrandparents and relational ambiguity

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Jan 24 18:13:03 UTC 2009

On Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 12:31 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:
> part of the problem in this thread is that people are falling back on
> an ordinary-language, non-technical use of the word "ambiguous", where
> an expression is said to be ambiguous if two or more differences in
> understanding can be discerned for it (especially where the
> differences in understanding are salient for you).  this usage
> embraces ambiguity in the technical sense, vagueness, multiplicity of
> referents for referential expressions, differences in speaker
> intentions (sarcasm or not?, etc.), and much else.  semanticists do
> not use "ambiguous" in this very broad way.

I guess that makes "ambiguous" both ambiguous (non-technically
speaking) and vague (technically speaking).

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list