Context as a Basis for Understanding Pragmatic Ambiguity with Reference to Arabic

Misbah M. D. Al-Sulaimaan, Lubna M. Khoshaba


The study of ambiguity has been a central issue in the formulation of linguistic theory, and has been an area which serious psycholinguistic study has focused on since the past two decades.

The current study deals with “Context as a Basis for Understanding Pragmatic Ambiguity with Reference to Arabic” and the methods that can be used for translating this phenomenon into Arabic taking into consideration the same effect of the SL writer.

No doubt, pragmatic ambiguity is problematic since it is based on intentionality. However, it becomes more problematic when it is translated into Arabic, simply, because English and Arabic are genetically different languages.

This research paper aims at (1) studying the phenomenon of pragmatic ambiguity which is the output of any other type of ambiguity such as phonetic ambiguity, phonological ambiguity, lexical ambiguity, sentential ambiguity  as well as semantic ambiguity, (2) making the context crystal clear which has an effective impact on understanding the expressions under investigation since intentionality cannot be deduced without knowing context, (3) specifying different patterns  of pragmatic ambiguity in the books and articles of pragmatics, (4) translating the specified patterns into Arabic to show their realizations and whether, they will have the same effects as to that of source language or not. 

It is hypothesized in this research that (1) there is no formal correspondence between English and Arabic, (2) pragmatic ambiguity cannot be solved unless both context and cotext of the phenomenon in question are known, (3) all types of ambiguity cannot be interpreted unless the intention of the writer is clear which is context and cotext bound

To test the validity of the above mentioned hypothesis, it is to be noted that only eight different patterns have been chosen to be translated into Arabic, (2) these expressions were translated by six assistant lecturers in the department of Translation/Cihan University/Erbil, (3) Newmarks' method of communicative translation will be adopted in the research under investigation, since it tackles the intention of the writer.

The basic conclusions of this research are that, (1) all types of ambiguity are based on the intention of the writer, (2) there was no formal correspondence  between both source language and target language, (3) the pragmatic ambiguity was solved by resorting to both cotext and context. 

Keywords: Ambiguity, pragmatic, translation, context, cotext.

Full Text:



Al-Sulaimaan, M. M. D. (2011): Semantics and Pragmatics, Mosul: Daar Ibn Al- Atheer for Publishing and Distribution.

Anjali, M.K. & Babn, Auto-P (2014): “Ambiguities in Natural Languages Processing” in International Journal of Innovative Research in Computer and communication Engineering, Vol.2, Special Issue 5.

Avruch, K. (1998): Culture and Conflict Resolution, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Bach, K. (1994): “Conversational Impliciture”, Mind and Language, 9pp. 124-62. Baker, K. L., Franz, A. M. and Jordan, P. W. (2001): “Coping with Ambiguity in Knowledge-Based Natural Language Analysis”. Center for Machine Translation and Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon: CarnegieMellonUniversity Press.

Bartoloni, P. and Stevens, A. (2010): “Introduction to Ambiguity in Culture and Literature”.In: Comparative Literature and Culture, Vol.12, No.4, pp.1-6.

Berry, D. M., Kamsties, E. and Krieger, M. M. (2003): “From Contract Draft to Software Specification: Linguistics Sources of Ambiguity”. In: Journal of Systems and Softwares, Vol.28, No.2, pp.1-70.

Clark, H. H. and Clark, E.V. (1977): Psychology and Language: AnIntroduction to Psycholinguistics, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Conway, P. (2002): “Syntactic Ambiguity”. In Law & Justice Foundation of NSW, pp.1-45.

Cook, G. (1999): Discourse and Literature, Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

Dastjerdi, H. V. and Zamani, B. (2009): “A Semantic Study of The Translation of Homonymous Terms in Sacred Texts: The Qur’an in Focus”. In: Journal of Language and Translation,Vol.10, No.1, pp.45-79.

Grenat, M. H. and Taher, M. M. (2002): “On The Translation of Structural Ambiguity”. In: Satil Journal,Vol.23, No.12, pp.9-20.

Hurfard, J. R., Hearsley, B. and Smith, M. B. (2007): Semantics,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2nd ed.).

Jejjud, W. (2005): “Ambiguity”. In College of Basic of Eduaction Researchers Education Journal, Vol.2, No.4,pp.223-235.

Kordoni, V. (2008): Foundation of Languages Science and Technology (FLST) Lecture 4 hh://www.coli.uni-saarland.ed/courdes.

Kroeber, A. Kluckhohn, C. (1952):Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions, New York: Vintage Books.

Leech,G.(1987): Semantics, Harmondsworth:Penguin Books.

Matsumoto, D. (1996): Culture and Psychology, Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Muhonen, K. and Purtonen, T. (2012): “Detecting Semantic Ambiguity Alternative Readings in Treebanks”.In: Linguistic Issues in Language and Technology, Vol.6, No.17, pp.1-11.

Newmark, P. (1988): A Textbook of Translation, Oxford and New York: Pergamon.

Prakasam,V. and Anvita Abbi(1993): Semantic Theories and Language Teaching, New Delhi: Allied Publishers

Poesio, M. & Artestein (1996): “Semantic Ambiguity and Perceived Ambiguity”. In: Deemter, K. and Peters, S. (eds.) Semantic Ambiguity and Underspecification, Stanford, CA, pp.159-201.

Schane, S. (2000): “Ambiguity and Misunderstanding in the Law”. In: Words and Phrases,Harvard: Harvard University Press, pp.1-20.

Thomas J. and Brommage, J. (2007): “Clarification and Linguistic Analysis”. In: University of Tampa,pp.1-3.

Walton, D. (1996): Fallacies Arising from Ambiguity, Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Widdowson, H. (2000):Linguistics, Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.

Yule, G. (1996): Pragmatics, New York: OxfordUniversity Press.

Yule, G. (2000):Pragmatics, Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Author(s)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.