However, polysemy is a vexed and controversial issue, as McArthur suggests when he says that there is a "gray area" between polysemy and homonymy, noting that one way dictionary writers make a distinction between polysemy and homonymy is to define homonyms in separate definitions but polysemous words with multiple definitions in the same entry (McArthur 795). Palmer makes much the same point, noting that homonyms are two or more words that have the same form but different etymologies or word origins. He gives the example of ear, which comes from Old English ťar meaning husk, or from Old English ťare meaning the auditory organ (Palmer 915).
Because polysemy can refer to either semantic or lexical ambiguity, the boundaries between polysemy and the strictly lexical operant homonymy are plainly unfixed. Levine's point that semantic ambiguity can exist even where lexical ambiguity does not dominate is relevant here. Consider this example: "Where did I come from?" No exotic meaning attaches to any of the words in the statement. Indeed, the statement manifestly has no double meaning, no metaphor, no irony. Why, then, can this statement be said to be semantically ambiguous? Despite, or perhaps exactly because of, the simplicity of the statement, it presents the potential for alternative analyses of the word where. That would seem to make a solid case for lexical ambiguity. In that connection, Poesio locates lexical ambiguity in both the choice of words on the part of their originator, i.e., in a "grammar which makes use of an underspecified language to encode the 'ambiguity potential' of lexically ambiguous expressions," and in the behavior of their receiver/receptor/auditor/reader, who may respond to the ambiguity by means of "a simple formalization of lexical disambiguation as defeasible inference over underspecified representations" (Poesio 14).
Undoubtedly, the statement is underspecified. Thus an answer to the question, on one analysi...
lexical ambiguity. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 03:54, August 30, 2015, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303955767.html