ERIC Number: ED351699
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Ambiguity Can Be Pragmatic, and a Good Thing, Too.
Both the speaker and hearer of a conversation can make use of ambiguity to achieve their special purpose in a given situation. The strategies stemming from pragmatic ambiguity offer distinct advantages to speakers and hearers. When dealing with ambiguity, linguists have concentrated on the source of ambiguity and how to analyze it. References to ambiguity among pragmaticists, however, has been sporadic. Strategies of ambiguity include deliberate ambiguity as well as intending two meanings simultaneously. These strategies, especially the second, are frequently adopted by creative writers to form word play. A third strategy, invoking words or phrases with both a literal meaning and an idiomatic meaning, are used commonly by joke tellers and humorists. Strictly speaking, this strategy is deceptive in nature. A fourth strategy involves openly meaning one thing by hoping to communicate a second, more hidden meaning. Besides these strategies for speakers, the hearer can achieve a particular communicative goal through pragmatic ambiguity as well. Examples from "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Roseanne" demonstrate how a listener can act as if an offensive utterance was actually ambiguous, thus forming a tactful response. In these ways, ambiguities, which at first seem to be defects of language, in fact offer the speaker and hearer a number of strategies for meeting particular communicative goals. (Thirteen references are attached). (HB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Communication Behavior; Communication Strategies; Conversation
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Conference on Pragmatics and Language Learning (6th, Urbana, IL, April 2-4, 1992).