Ambiguity, generality, and indeterminacy: Tests and definitions [Book Review]

Synthese 85 (3):391 - 416 (1990)
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Abstract

The problem addressed is that of finding a sound characterization of ambiguity. Two kinds of characterizations are distinguished: tests and definitions. Various definitions of ambiguity are critically examined and contrasted with definitions of generality and indeterminacy, concepts with which ambiguity is sometimes confused. One definition of ambiguity is defended as being more theoretically adequate than others which have been suggested by both philosophers and linguists. It is also shown how this definition of ambiguity obviates a problem thought to be posed by ambiguity for truth theoretical semantics. In addition, the best known test for ambiguity, namely the test by contradiction, is set out, its limitations discussed, and its connection with ambiguity's definition explained. The test is contrasted with a test for vagueness first proposed by Peirce and a test for generality propounded by Margalit.

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