GRK 1808 TInCAP 5
Tübingen Interdisciplinary Corpus of Ambiguity Phenomena


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Phenomenon Definition
Ambiguity in discourse When the ambiguity of an utterance or text does not come from the ambiguity of lexical items or multiple underlying structures, we speak of ambiguity in discourse (Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:288).

La poubelle est pleine.
[The bin is full.]
a) The bin is full.
b) Empty the bin! (Fuchs 1996:19; TInCAP entry: wie210001)
Ambiguity in the language system Ambiguity in the language system is a characteristic of signs (morphemes, words, constructions) that can be assigned two (or more) distinct meanings (Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:288).

Morpheme -s in English is ambiguous between a plural marker (dogs, papers) and a 3rd-person singular marker (likes, writes).
Apo koinou The apo koinou construction, a figure of speech, is a syntactical construction in which two clauses are blended by means of a lexeme with two syntactical functions (as per "dead" in the below example). The ambiguity in the lexeme may then lead to ambiguity in the reading of the clauses. (Aarts, Chalker, and Weiner 2014:30).

Indeed, I never shall be satisfied
With Romeo till I behold him, dead,
Is my poor heart so for a kinsman vexed.
a) I shall never be staisfied until I see Romeo. My heart is dead because I lost my vexed cousin.
b) I shall never be satisfied until I see Romeo dead. My heart is vexed because I lost my cousin. (Shakespeare 2005:390; TInCAP entry: vot730002)
Bridging context The process of semantic change between meaning A and meaning B contains a phase where A and B are both present (polysemy). Before this, there is another phase in which B arises from the word being used in certain contexts, without B being part of the word’s general meaning (i.e. without it yet being lexicalised). The term bridging context describes this phase, and is commonly used in theories of language change (N. Evans and Wilkins 2000; Heine 2002).

Philaminte. [. . . ] Holà ! Je vous ai dit en paroles bien claires,
Que j’ai besoin de vous.
Henriette. Mais pour quelles affaires ?
Philaminte. Venez, on va dans peu vous les faire savoir.
a) I ("on") will let you know.
b) One ("on") will let you know. (Molière 1763; TInCAP entry: wie210002)
Collocation Collocations are partly or fully fixed expressions that are established through repeated context-dependent use. Their meaning is semantically transparent (Fellbaum 2011). A collocation can help determine which meaning of an otherwise ambiguous word is relevant.

Compare the meaning of the verb “dust” in a) and b)
a) dust the furniture (cf. Parish 1963:20-22; TInCAP entry: waw190046)
b) dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Conceptual contrast Conceptual contrast is an associative principle that relates the meanings of an ambiguous expression (Blank 2013). In the case of polysemy, the different interpretations of an ambiguous expression may denote concepts that are in contrastive relation to each other. In literary texts, the interpretations of an ambiguous character or event may be related via conceptual contrast.

“True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery— a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness."
a) blank space: white space
b) blank space: dark space (Conrad 2004:24; TInCAP entry: zhx540006)
Contiguity In psycholinguistics, contiguity is an associative rule that is based on the temporal, spatial or conceptual neighborhood of two or more different concepts (Blank 2013:42-43).

E ben covenc que Deu nasquès en Betleem, «quia Betleem domus panis interpretatur»; car Betleem, maisón de pa es apelada, per aiçò car aquí nasc Nostre S[énner], le quals es apelats celestial pan, si con diz en I’Avangeli.
a) Betlehem
b) house of bread –> Jesus Christ (Ocerinjauregui 1990:93; TInCAP entry: sim180002)
Conversational implicature Conversational implicatures are a type of implicature that arises from the observance, non-observance or (blatant) flouting of Grice’s conversa- tional maxims of relevance, quality, quantity, and manner (Grice 1968; Grice 1975). Conversational implicatures are calculable, defeasible (i.e. open to revision), non-detachable and non-conventional. If they do not presuppose context, they are generalized. If they use preceding context, they are particularized.

Are you going to his party? – I have to work.
a) I have to work.
b) I am not going to his party. (Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:288; TInCAP entry: rom700012)
Disambiguation by context Ambiguity may be temporary in a sentence: it disappears once the whole sentence is processed (see Temporary ambiguity). In other cases, we need context to disambiguate the sentence. Thus, in the example, we need more context to understand whether a) or b) is meant by the speaker.

Kinder dürfen da nur drauf sitzen!
[Children are allowed to sit there only!]
a). Only children are allowed to sit there (and no one else)
b). Children are only allowed to sit here, and should not do anything else (e.g. jump) (Jäger 2020:3; TInCAP entry: knm350015)
Dramatic irony Dramatic irony occurs in a drama or other literary text when the audience or reader knows more than a character, meaning that what happens or what is said takes on additional meanings the character is not aware of. This often results in ambiguity, as per the example below, in which Gertrude, not knowing Claudius’s plans, understands meaning (b), while the audience infers meaning (a).

Claudius [to Gertrude]: I hope to hear good news [concerning Hamlet] from thence [England] ere long
If everything falls out to our content.
a) Claudius hopes to hear that Hamlet has been executed in England.
b) Claudius hopes to hear that Hamlet has arrived well in England. (Shakespeare 2006; TInCAP entry: brm020016)
Ellipsis Ellipsis is the omission of linguistic material in a sentence (see Merchant 2001; Sag 1976; Winkler 2011 among others). In certain situations, such as verb phrase ellipsis and sluicing, omission of parts of a sentence may lead to ambiguity: the deleted site can be reconstructed in more than one way.

Barry insulted Lane at the office, but I don’t know who else.
a) I don’t know who else insulted Lane.
b) I don’t know who else Barry insulted. (Remmele 2019:405; TInCAP entry: reb240015)
Enigmatic ambiguity Enigmatic ambiguity designates local cases of ambiguity that may be disambiguated by the recipient through a coherence that the text subversively disguises (Guethlein, to apppear).

Also glaub nicht, dass du Hund hier’n Aufreißer wirst, wie’n Chinaimbiss
a) Glaub nicht dass du Hund hier’n Aufreißer wirst.
b) Glaub nicht, dass du Hundhirn auf Reis servierst. (TInCAP entry: gue280011)
Epistemic ambiguity Epistemic ambiguity has to do with a conflicted state of knowledge: if there are inconsistent hypotheses about a given object or event, we can say that it is epistemically ambiguous. To create an ambiguity, the hypotheses must be valid, refer to the same totality of evidence, be mutually exclusive, and resist merger into a superordinate unit.

In court there might be conflicting testimonies and therefore differing stories about reality. In the case of the so called "Moonwalkrobbery":
a) One witness describes many offenders and states that the victim was hit several times.
b) One witness describes one offender who hit the victim once. (TInCAP entry: rof150001)
Figurative language Figurative language refers to “speech where speakers mean something other than what they literally say” (Gibbs Jr and Colston 2012:1). Ambiguity may arise whenever it is not clear whether the speaker uses words in the literal or the figurative sense.

“I don’t know, Tim. I’m completely in the dark. . . ”
That was when the lights went out.
Suddenly it was pitch-black in the room. At the same time there was a click and a rush of cool air as the door was opened, and [. . .]
a) I am physically in a place where there is no light.
b) I have no idea what is going on. (Horowitz 2005:55; TInCAP entry: waw190038)
Focus Focus is the part of the information structure of a sentence which contains new or contrastive information often marked prosodically (Jutta M Hartmann and Winkler 2013; Krifka 2008; Lambrecht 1996; Prince 1981; Roberts 1998). There may be a set of alternatives for what the focus of a sentence is, especially in writing, where prosody is absent. (Rooth 1992; Krifka 2006)

Gramma only gave a bunny to Maryanne.
a) Only to Maryanne and nobody else (focus on Maryanne).
b) Gramma only gave Maryanne a bunny and nothing else (focus on bunny). (M. Wagner et al. 2010; TInCAP entry: knm350009)
Formulaic language Formulaic language relates to multiword expressions (Wray 2005) such as idioms, collocations, proverbs, etc. In literary texts, the author may create a context where the formulaic language is interpreted as a regular sequence of words. Thus, the expression will appear ambiguous between its formulaic and compositional meaning.

“What takes you to Dover?” “Well . . . the train does.”
a) Why are you going to Dover?
b) What kind of transport takes you to Dover? (Horowitz 2005:63; TInCAP entry: waw190034)
Garden path A temporary ambiguity that arises because we process sentences in online fashion as words come in (Frazier and Fodor 1978). In the example, we first parse past as a preposition. Then when we reach fell we hit the end of the garden path and have to reanalyse the syntactic structure so that the barn is the subject of a new clause and past an adverb.

The horse raced past the barn fell
a) The horse raced past the barn.
b) The horse raced past. The barn fell. (Bever 1970:316; TInCAP entry: vot730014)
Genre ambiguity Ambiguity of genre is a type of structural / constitutive ambiguity (also called frame ambiguity). Every literary text is encoded via the genre or type that it belongs to (cf. Berndt and Maienborn 2013:91). Generic style sheets may be described as a set of rules, as frames or complex scripts (cf. Raskin 1985: Genre ambiguity arises with the combination of two (and/or more) distinct generic style sheets that manifest the structure of a literary text so that the literary text is equally close to two (and/or more) genres (cf. Weimar 2009:55).

“Der zerbrochene Krug” by Heinrich von Kleist
a) A comedy
b) A tragedy (Kleist 1957; TInCAP entry: vot730012)
Homography Homography is a type of lexical ambiguity and a sub-type of homonymy. The meanings of homographs are, therefore, as homonyms, distinct and unrelated. Homographs are spelled identically but may differ in their pronunciation (e.g. to lead (verb) vs. lead (noun)).

a) The strong contrast was hard to ignore. (noun)
b) The strong contrast with their weaker friends. (verb)
(Breen and Clifton Jr 2011:25; TInCAP entry: reb240005)
Homonymy Homonymy is a type of lexical ambiguity that is based on two or more words which are identical in spelling and/or pronunciation while their meanings are distinct and unrelated. Subtypes of homonymy include homography and homophony (Bußmann 1996:519).

“One laid hands on my trunk”
a) One laid hands on my suitcase.
b) One laid hands on my behind. (slang)
c) One laid hands on my prolonged flexible snout.
d) One laid hands on my torso.
(Brontë and Smith 2008:50; TInCAP entry: brk530009)
Homophony Homophony is a type of lexical ambiguity and a sub-type of homonymy. Like homographs (see above), the meanings of homophones are distinct and unrelated but unlike homographs, they are identical in their pronunciation but not necessarily in their spelling (e.g. to vs. too vs. two).

„The Bare Necessities“
a) bare
b) bear (Disney and Reitherman 1967; TInCAP entry: brk530001)
Idiom Idioms are multiword utterances the meaning of which is at least in part non-compositional (Fellbaum 2011). All idioms are conventional ( Wagner 2020). In literary texts and public speeches, the authors may bring the reader’s attention to the literal meaning of the words composing an idiom, thus creating an ambiguity between a literal and a conventional meaning.

Mama fällt ständig aus allen Wolken. (Mom is always falling down from the clouds.)
a) Mom is always taken by surprise (idiomatic/conventional).
b) Mom is always falling down from the clouds (literal). (Werbung Kinderschokolade 2016; TInCAP entry: wis200064)
Implicature Implicatures are meanings that have not been directly expressed but rather implied (Grice 1975). They can be subdivided into conventional and conversational implicatures (Bußmann 1996:546). A sentence containing an implicature may be ambiguous depending on whether the lis- tener computes the implicature or not.

Some students passed the test.
a) In fact, all of them did. (implicature cancelled)
b) Not all students passed the test. (implicature computed).
Indirectness Indirectness is at play when someone performs a speech act by performing another. That means, for example, that a question is used to make a request (as is frequently the case in polite requests), or, as in the case of the example below, a statement is used to make a request. When being indirect, the speaker does not communicate a direct representation of her goal but leaves this goal to be inferred via pragmatic reasoning by the listener (cf. Searle 1975).

It’s cold in here.
a) The temperature in this room is low.
b) Please shut the window.
(Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:308; TInCAP entry: aca670004)
Irony The expression of meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite (Waite 2012). If the listener fails to notice the irony, she may interpret the utterance literally. Thus, an utterance may be ambiguous between its literal and ironic meaning.

What an amazing movie! [when the movie is in fact terrible].
a) The movie is great.
b) The movie is terrible.
Lexical ambiguity Lexical ambiguity occurs when a lexical item has more than one meaning. If the meanings are related we talk about polysemy, and if meanings are unrelated we deal with homonymy (Wasow 2015:33).

a) fruit
b) a bird native to New Zealand
c) a New Zealender (colloquiual; TInCAP entry: tir410042).
Literary character Literary characters can be ambiguated on a conceptual level. This is particularly the case when signals or traits are in contradiction with one another within one character. For the character to be properly ambiguous, these contradictions must be incompatible with each other (otherwise we have a "mixed character", with e.g. good and bad traits) and cannot be explained by the course of the character’s development (Zirker and Potysch 2019:3-4).

Polonius is a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
a) cunning courtier
b) senile fool
c) concerned father (Shakespeare 1982; TInCAP entry: brm020002)
Metaphor A metaphor is a sub-type of figurative language that exploits the similarity between two domains. It depends on the comparison between two parts: target (what is being talked about) and source (the concept to characterize the target) (Holyoak and Stamenković 2018:643-644). In the most frequent case, a more abstract domain is described by making use of concrete domain (V. Evans 2007:136-138). Metaphors can be seen as ambiguity phenomena as they are – in principle – ambiguous between their literal and their figurative meanings, although in most cases, one of the two readings might be more prominent or the only sensible one in a discourse.

Juliet is the sun.
a) Juliet is literally a heavenly body with a mass of more than a thousand Earths so as to support thermonuclear fusion at her core.
b) Juliet has an aspect in which she is very much like the sun. (Asher 2011:312-313; TInCAP entry: eln690004)
Metonymy Metonymy is a sub-type of figurative language. One expression is substituted for another on the basis that they are closely associated. For instance, containers can be used to refer to the things that are contained, or agents to refer to a product of the action, or an object to its possessor (respectively: "I’ll have a glass", "reading Wordsworth", "loy- alty to the crown") (Greene et al. 2012:867). Metonymy may help to generate ambiguity when a hearer isn’t certain whether a statement is meant metonymically or literally.

"It doesn't matter how," he said and I realized that it did matter a lot. "All that matters is that he doesn't kill Kusenov on British soil."
"Suppose he stays on the pavement?" Tim asked.
Mr Waverly swallowed hard. "I mean, we have to ensure that Kusenov is not killed while he is anywhere in Britain," he explained, choosing his words carefully.
a) on British soil
b) on the soil/ground/dirt one finds in Britain (Wagner 2020:282f; TInCAP entry: waw190035)
Narrative ambiguity A text is narratively ambiguous if:
  1. it holds properties which result in two or more mutually exclusive interpretations of what happens
  2. those interpretations provoke a cognitive stalemate without being resolved
  3. there are no intratextual hints that dissolve the ambiguity or give preference to one interpretation.
Narrative ambiguity can appear in different media, such as novels, film and drama. (See Rimmon 1977; Mittelbach 2003.)

In Sirius Italicus’ historical epic poem "Punica" (first century AD), the narrative ambiguity of the work consists in the indecisiveness of the question of which side – the Romans or the Carthaginians – will emerge victorious from the war (although the reader knows from his historical world knowledge that Rome will win). (Italicus and Delz 1987:1,1-37)
Perceived ambiguity The label perceived ambiguity can be used to mark the level of communication where the ambiguity is first perceived. This helps to distinguish ambiguity awareness in cases where there are multiple annotations for different levels of communication.

Draw the drapes when the sun comes in.
read Amelia Bedelia. She looked up. The sun was coming in. Amelia Bedelia looked at the list again. "Draw the drapes? That’s what it says. I’m not much of a hand at drawing, but I’ll try."
So Amelia Bedelia sat right down and she drew those drapes.
a) close the drapes
b) make a drawing of the drapes (Parish 1963:25; TInCAP entry: waw190065)
Polysemy Polysemy is a type of lexical ambiguity. One sign (word, phrase, or symbol) is connected with several meanings, which usually share an etymological relation (e.g. Bußmann 1996:918). The meanings have a common underlying core and are usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic field.

John’s Mom burned the book on magic before he could master it.
a) book = physical object (in combination with the verb "to burn")
b) book = informational object (in combination with the verb "to master") (Asher 2011:186; TInCAP entry: eln690002)
Potential ambiguity This category describes the situation where a (linguistic) structure has the potential to be ambiguous, yet this potential is not realized, for example because the context disambiguates immediately. It follows that there is no ambiguity perceived, even if the potential for ambiguity is there. (Bauer et al. 2010:42; W. Wagner 2020:36-41, 83-86)

“Oh, Bear!” said Christopher Robin. “How I do love you!”
“So do I,” said Pooh.
a) I love you, too.
b) I love myself. (Milne 2005:71; TInCAP entry: waw190060)
Pragmatic ambiguity Pragmatic ambiguity is triggered by elements of the communicative situation such as speaker, addressee, time and space, and implicatures rather than by specific parts of the utterance. The entire utterance can be taken as ambiguous. (Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:305; Winter- Froemel, Munderich, and Schole Forthcoming).

It’s cold in here.
a) The temperature in this room is low.
b) Please shut the window.
(Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:308; TInCAP entry: aca670004
Punctuation Punctuation is the use of signs such as full stop, comma or exclamation mark in order to mark the structure of constituents in written language (e.g. Bußmann 2008:807). In certain contexts, punctuation disambiguates structural ambiguities. An ambiguity might arise when punctuation is accidentally or purposely omitted.

Let’s Eat Grandma
a) Someone is invited to eat a grandmother (Let’s eat grandma).
b) A grandmother is invited to eat something (Let’s eat, grandma).
(Stubbs 2016:1; TInCAP entry: eln690001)
Referential ambiguity Referential ambiguity occurs whenever an expression can possibly refer to more than just one object/person. This is, for instance, the case when a speaker uses a pronoun in a context that allows for multiple possible antecedents (e.g. Kroeger 2018:24).

Mario has jumped on the head of Toad. As a result, he could not destroy the box.
a) Toad could not destroy the box.
b) Mario could not destroy the box. (TInCAP entry: kim460004)
Reperspectivization / reconceptualization Reperspectivization / reconceptualization represent two different ways of perspectivizing / conceptualizing the same extra-linguistic situation (cf. Munderich and Schole 2019; Koch 2004:424). It is a change in the perspectivization of an object or topic within a frame, which has the consequence that a different element of the frame is in focus than before.

Si mangia delle mele.
a) 'Apples are eaten'
b) '(Some)one eats apples' (; TInCAP entry: muc130010)
Resolved ambiguity Resolved ambiguity refers to examples where an ambiguity is dis- ambiguated. Winter-Froemel and Zirker (2015:313) distinguish between three basic types of disambiguation: time, context and metalinguistic strategies. There might be, however, also other disambiguating factors (e.g. punctuation, world knowledge, etc.). The counterpart of a resolved ambiguity is an unresolved ambiguity, i.e. one in which at least two readings are possible at the same time within a particular context.

For example, Köhler (1925) studied an ape called Sultan. He (the ape rather than Köhler!) was kept inside a cage, and could only reach a banana outside the cage by joining two sticks together.
a) The ape was kept inside a cage.
b) Köhler was kept inside a cage. (Eysenck 2006:361; TInCAP entry: kim460006)
Retrospective ambiguity Retrospective ambiguity occurs when an ambiguity is not perceived at first, but ambiguity perception is triggered retrospectively by something following the ambiguous element. This may or may not lead to reanalysis.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie- the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.
“What does ‘under the name’ mean?” asked Christopher Robin.
“It means he had the name over the door in gold letters and lived under it.” a) was called or known by the name [phrasal]
b) his place of living was located under the name [compositional] (Milne 2005:4; TInCAP entry: waw190012)
Rethorical question A rhetorical question is interrogative in structure but has the force of a strong assertion. It generally does not expect an answer. (Quirk 1985:825)

What have the Romans ever done for us?
a) Tell me what the Romans have done for us.
b) The Romans have never done anything for us. (The life of Brian. Monty Python 1979; TInCAP entry: rom700011)
Scope ambiguity In analogy to formal logic, where ‘scope’ denotes the range governed by operators (logical connective, quantifier), in linguistics ‘scope’ denotes the range of semantic reference of negation, linguistic quantifiers, and particles. The interpretation of scope frequently depends on the placement of sentence stress (intonation). Scope ambiguity often arises as a result of the interaction of two or more operators, typically quantifiers, numerals, negation, etc. (e.g. Bußmann 2008:629). The term is also used in other disciplines. Thus, in law studies, the scope of a clause is the range of its application, for example, a clause may apply only to the referenced document or all of its pre-conditions.

Two boys are holding three balloons.
a) Two boys are each holding three balloons. There is a total of six balloons.
b) Two boys are together holding three balloons. There is a total of three balloons. (Musolino 2009:7; TInCAP entry: aca670001)
Similarity Similarity is an associative principle (as are contrast and contiguity) that relates the meanings of an ambiguous expression. Together with contrast, it represents the basis for metaphorical extensions of lexical items (Blank 2013:42-43). It describes a relation between the meanings of a polysemous word/ambiguous sentence.

In the Sermon 2 of Maurice of Sulley he says: “Li encens senefie buene proiere”. He builds in his allegorical (tropological) exegesis on the similarity between
a) inscence and
b) prayer
in the Jewish-Christian tradition (Robson et al. 1952:2,1-66; TInCAP entry: sim180001)
Structural ambiguity Structural ambiguity occurs when more than one structure can possibly underlie a sentence or complex word. The different meanings arise depending on the respective deep structure chosen. When the object of enquiry is a sentence, we can speak of syntactic ambiguity (Wasow 2015:34)

I like ambiguity more than most people.
a) I like ambiguity more than I like most people.
b) I like ambiguity more than most people like it. (Bacskai-Atkari 2014:240; TInCAP entry: reb240003)
Syntatic ambiguity Syntactic ambiguity is a type of structural ambiguity, which arises when it is possible to assign more than one logical form to a sentence (Sennet 2016). This can take the shape of several subtypes such as coordination or attachment ambiguities. In coordination ambiguities, a modifier or a complement can associate with only one or both parts of a coordination. In attachment ambiguities, a modifier has several different possible attachment sites.

The murderer killed the student with the book.
a) The murderer used the book as a weapon.
b) The student was holding a book when the crime was committed. (TInCAP entry: brk530008)
Temporary ambiguity Temporary ambiguity is a subtype of resolved ambiguity in which the disambiguation proceeds via time. Temporary ambiguities disappear during the processing of the utterance (Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015:315).

They knew that some lawyer defended some dealers. Do you know which one?
Before we hear “one”, the structure is ambiguous between the question of
a) which lawyer defended the dealers
b) which dealers were defended (Remmele 2019:248; TInCAP entry: reb240020)
Underspecification Underspecification describes the fact that language in communication is usually not semantically complete and precise, but often incomplete. For the purposes of comprehension, this is often sufficient, but when that is not the case ambiguity may arise (cf. Sanford and Graesser 2006; Christianson et al. 2001; Ferreira, Bailey, and Ferraro 2002). In a literary text, a character may intentionally misinterpret the underspecified relation to create a comic effect.

Expressions of the type “dust + noun” do not specify whether the dust needs to be added or removed. Compare
a) dust the furniture (Parish 1963:20-22; TInCAP entry: waw190046)
b) dust the cake with powdered sugar
Unreliability Ambiguity in a narration can be due to its unreliability. Unreliabilities can evoke ambiguities through (1) intratextual signs, e.g. when the narration contradicts itself, through (2) intertextual signs, e.g. when it contradicts knowledge of other texts, through (3) further extratextual signs, e.g. when it contradicts world knowledge, and through (4) genre or stylistic signals (Booth 1961:158; Nünning and Surkamp 1998).

Lucan’s historical epic Pharsalia (first century AD)
Unresolved ambiguity Unresolved ambiguity refers to examples where an ambiguity is not disambiguated within the section of text considered. There is no indication in the immediate context (either preceding or following the ambiguity) that only one of the readings was intended. Thus, a resolution of the ambiguity is not possible. (W. Wagner 2020:86-87)

“Of course I have. Ever since I read about that ice-skater getting killed. . . ” “Rushmore,” I muttered. “The late Eightysix”, Tim added.
“Yeah,” I said. “They finally got his number.” Charlotte sat down and waved us both to a seat.
a) understood his character, capabilities, or situation
b) judged him ready to die
c) knew his tricot number
(Horowitz 2005:107; TInCAP entry: waw190049)
Vagueness Vagueness and ambiguity both describe situations of interpretative uncertainty. Unlike ambiguity, which applies to cases when it is not clear which of the available meanings is intended, vagueness involves uncertainty about the meanings themselves (Kennedy 2011). Words like "expensive", in the example below, might mean different things in different contexts, and give rise to borderline cases, where it’s not clear whether something is the case or is not (e.g. is expensive or not).

The coffee in Rome is expensive. (Kennedy 2011; TInCAP entry: wie210003)
Wordplay With wordplay, a less expected form is chosen because of its similarity with a more expected form, usually exploiting an ambiguity in the language system. The arising contrast can be stronger or weaker, depending on a variety of factors such as semantic meaning, similarity and the concrete communicative setting (Delabastita 1996; Partington 2009; Winter-Froemel and Zirker 2015).

Mr. Gum’s bedroom was absolutely grimsters. The wardrobe contained so much mould and old cheese that there was hardly any room for his moth-eaten clothes, and the bed was never made. (I don’t mean that the duvet was never put back on the bed, I mean the bed had never even been MADE. Mr Gum hadn’t gone to the bother of assembling it. He had just chucked all the bits of wood on the floor and dumped a mattress on top.)
a) assemble the bed
b) put the duvet back on the bed (Stanton 2013; TInCAP entry: waw190036)