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← 03-30 Ambiguity

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Showing Revision 1 created 05/04/2012 by Amara Bot.

  1. One trait shared by programming languages and natural languages is ambiguity.
  2. Consider the sentence "I saw Jane Austen using binoculars."
  3. It's relatively clear what this means, right?
  4. Here's me. I have binoculars or perhaps pants, but let's image that they're binoculars.
  5. I'm looking through them. Over here in the distance I see Jane Austen.
  6. We can tell it's Jane Austen, because she's in a park. Mansfield Park, let's say.
  7. I am using the binoculars to see Jane Austen.
  8. However, if you think about it there's an alternative implementation
  9. or an alternative interpretation of this sentence--
  10. another way to look at it that's also perfectly valid.
  11. Here in this alternative interpretation, I see with my naked eye Jane Austen.
  12. She is using binoculars to look at something else.
  13. Maybe she's spying on an Abbey over here. Let's call it Northanger Abbey.
  14. Actually it looks a bit more like a barn that was badly painted, but let's imagine.
  15. Both of the interpretations are correct or the sentence is ambiguous.
  16. It's not clear whether using binoculars modifies Jane Austen.
  17. Is she the person using binoculars?
  18. Or whether using binoculars modifies "I saw." The picture on the left that's how I'm seeing.
  19. It's quiz time--a quiz on ambiguity.
  20. Consider the expression 1 minus 2 plus 3.
  21. Keeping ambiguity in mind, if this were a Python or JavaScript
  22. or even just on the whiteboard or on a piece of paper in mathematics,
  23. this is a mathematical expression. What might it evaluate to?
  24. I've got four choices in this multiple multiple choice quiz.
  25. Check all that apply.