Answers... & Ambiguity LO6634

John Paul Fullerton (
Fri, 12 Apr 1996 00:42:21 +0000

Replying to LO6531 --

Continuing talking about ambiguity.

One question is "what is ambiguity in business?"

Dr. Deming talked about the lack of operational definitions and the
like. Is the inexact or incomplete state of knowledge what is being
talked about in the present conversation?

I was reminded of a book of literary criticism that William Empson
wrote, "Seven Types of Ambiguity." There's quoted material at the
last of this note about that book. His emphasis seems to be how
literary use of language is related to particular types of ambiguity.

The rest of this note is a quote the WWW about the book mentioned,
for those who would like to hear more about it.

The information is available at the following URL.

The name written at the last of the information is Harry Rusche.

Although critics had previously noted this indeterminate and playful
aspect of language and its tendency to slip constantly from denotation
to connotation, the term "ambiguity" entered the critical vocabulary
after the publication in 1930 of William Empson's landmark study,
Seven Types of Ambiguity. Empson says in the preface to his book that

An ambiguity, in ordinary speech, means something very pronounced, and
as a rule witty or deceitful. I propose to use the word in an extended
sense, and shall think relevant to my subject any verbal nuance,
however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same
piece of language. . . . A word may have several distinct meanings;
several meanings connected with one another; several meanings which
need one another to complete their meaning; or several meanings which
unite together so that the word mean one relation or one process. This
is a scale which might be followed continuously. "Ambiguity" itself
can mean an indecision as to what you mean, an intention to mean
several things, a probability that one or other or both of two things
has been meant, and the fact that a statement has several meanings.

last of quote

Have a nice day
John Paul Fullerton


"John Paul Fullerton" <>

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