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Semantic Ambiguity and Perceived Ambiguity

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Abstract:

I explore some of the issues that arise when trying to establish a connection between the underspecification hypothesis pursued in the NLP literature and work on ambiguity in semantics and in the psychological literature. A theory of underspecification is developed `from the first principles', i.e., starting from a definition of what it means for a sentence to be semantically ambiguous and from what we know about the way humans deal with ambiguity. An underspecified language is specified as the translation language of a grammar covering sentences that display three classes of semantic ambiguity: lexical ambiguity, scopal ambiguity, and referential ambiguity. The expressions of this language denote sets of senses. A formalization of defeasible reasoning with underspecified representations is presented, based on Default Logic. Some issues to be confronted by such a formalization are discussed.

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