Ambiguities are often `local'.

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Ambiguities are often `local'.

A fundamental assumption is that it is often possible to obtain an un-ambiguous utterance by slightly changing an ambiguous one. Thus, after generating an ambiguous utterance, it may be possible to change that utterance locally, to obtain an un-ambiguous utterance with the same meaning. In the case of a simple lexical ambiguity this idea is easily illustrated. Given the two meanings of the word `bank' (`river bank' vs. `money institution') a generator may produce, as a first possibility, the following sentence in the case of the first reading of `bank'.

To `repair' this utterance we simply alter the word `bank' into the word `river bank' and we obtain an un-ambiguous result. Similar examples can be constructed for structural ambiguities. Consider the German sentence:


which is ambiguous (in German) between `withdraw [the army of Croatia]' and `[withdraw [the army] away from Croatia]'. In German this ambiguity can be repaired locally simply by changing the order of `aus Kroatien' and `die Armee', which forces the second reading. Thus again we only need to change only a small part of the utterance in order for it to be un-ambiguous.

Gertjan van Noord
Thu Nov 24 18:08:35 MET 1994