General Discussion > General Linguistics

Ambiguity

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Kilian:
In case you didn't know all of them, here are the five theoretically possible readings of the sentence time flies like an arrow, taken vom Steven Pinker's book The Language Instinct:

Time proceeds as quickly as an arrow proceeds.
Measure the speed of flies in the same way that you measure the speed of an arrow.
Measure the speed of flies in the same way that an arrow measures the speed of flies.
Measure the speed of flies that resemble an arrow.
Flies of a particular kind, time-flies, are fond of an arrow.

Laura:
That's a lot of work for the next Brecht-Bau-Fest!  :o  ;)

Armin:
The imperative reading can mostly be ruled out by the pragmatic context resp. the intonation pattern. Language is not that ambiguous.

Kilian:
So can the reading about the likings of time-flies, imho. As I wrote, theoretically... :)

Armin:
By what theory?

(I know, that is a mean question about the restrictions syntax is capable of.)

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