Some words and sentences are ambiguous — they could be taken more than one way.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it? Does ambiguity make language difficult to understand? Or could it actually make communicating easier?

Linguist Daniel Midgley enjoys ambiguity more than most people on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with James Hall


Show notes

Some people think that ‘Eugene Goostman’ is the first computer to pass the Turing Test.
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140906-25642.html

Not really, except by exploiting the judges’ expectations.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10886389/Computer-passes-the-Turing-Test-Im-not-convinced.html

Other bots have ‘passed’ the test, including Cleverbot.
https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140609/07284327524/no-computer-did-not-pass-turing-test-first-time-everyone-should-know-better.shtml

Here’s a transcript of Eugene’s output. Would you be fooled?
http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1858

Ray Kurzweil conversation with chatbot Eugene Goostman. Notice how bad the bot is at real-world questions, as well as understanding the same information stated in different ways.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/response-by-ray-kurzweil-to-the-announcement-of-chatbot-eugene-goostman-passing-the-turing-test

Want to see the ten senses of ‘bank’ in WordNet?
http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=bank&sub=Search+WordNet&o2=&o0=1&o8=1&o1=1&o7=&o5=&o9=&o6=&o3=&o4=&h=

Ambiguous words probably make communicating easier
http://phys.org/news/2014-06-ambiguous-words-easier.html

Earlier: the advantage of ambiguity in language
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-01/miot-mta011912.php

Run is an incredibly polysemous word.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/opinion/29winchester.html?ref=languageandlanguages

‘Duck’ less so, but still.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=duck

How do computers do word sense disambiguation?
http://aclweb.org/aclwiki/index.php?title=Word_sense_disambiguation

Crash blossoms
http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/is-this-headline-clear-learning-about-ambiguity-and-clarity-from-headlines/

The buffalo sentence
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_buffalo_Buffalo_buffalo_buffalo_buffalo_Buffalo_buffalo

Canadia
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/canadia-trends-on-twitter-after-tony-abbott-gaffe-20140609-zs1sr.html


Show tunes

‘Venus Traps Fly’ by Machine Translations
from the album Venus Traps Fly
No video, sorry!

‘Ostrich of War’ by Soop
from the EP Buffalo Buffalo