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.

Not really, except by exploiting the judges’ expectations.

Other bots have ‘passed’ the test, including Cleverbot.

Here’s a transcript of Eugene’s output. Would you be fooled?

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.

Want to see the ten senses of ‘bank’ in WordNet?

Ambiguous words probably make communicating easier

Earlier: the advantage of ambiguity in language

Run is an incredibly polysemous word.

‘Duck’ less so, but still.

How do computers do word sense disambiguation?

Crash blossoms

The buffalo sentence


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