Are girlfriend uncertain about ambiguity? You"re not alone! Int this article, we clear up how to identify and also write about different varieties of ambiguity!

Do you uncover it difficult to identify ambiguity in a text and use that in her textual analysis? This write-up will help you understand what faint is and how to write about it.

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In this article, we’ll discuss,

The several types of ambiguity

Literary techniques – Ambiguity

Ambiguity have the right to exist in several ways in a literary text. In this article, us will failure the different versions the ambiguity and also think about how lock can create meaning.


A planner to aid you learn just how to analyse your texts and produce detailed notes so you can produce Band 6 responses.

What is ambiguity?

Ambiguity falls into several different categories:

Syntactic faint – Ambiguous statements that may have actually multiple meanings due come the point of the sentenceSemantic ambiguity – Ambiguous declaration that could have many meanings since of the choice of wordsNarrative ambiguity – Ambiguity bordering the plot or characters and their motivesConceptual Ambiguity – Ambiguity around the concepts, themes, or concepts in the text

We’ll start with ambiguity at the level that the sentence and also move into more complicated aspects the ambiguity native there!

Types the Ambiguity

We’ll start with ambiguity at the level that the sentence and also move into more complex aspects that ambiguity indigenous there!

Syntactic Ambiguity

Ambiguity (pronounced ‘am-bih-GYOO-ih-tee’) is a word, phrase, statement, or idea that have the right to be understood in much more than one way.

Syntactic pass out occurs once the sentence or statement has ambiguous dot or syntactic structure (the bespeak of parts of the sentence).

Have you ever before read a sentence and found that there room two feasible meanings?

For example, take the sentence:

I rode a white equine in pink pyjamas.

Does this mean:

The persona was wearing pink pyjamas when they talk the horse, orThe steed was put on the pink pyjamas?

Sometimes ambiguity provides things confound in undesirable ways. The above sentence consists of what we speak to syntactic ambiguity because the syntax or structure of the sentence provides it ambiguous. That reads favor a mistake and also needs to be rephrased to produce a fingerprint meaning.

One means of removed ambiguity in the over sentence would be come rewrite the as:

Wearing pink pyjamas, ns rode a white horse.

Sometimes, however, writers encompass ambiguity on purpose. This is the type of ambiguity the we think about a literary technique, not just a mistake. We will certainly come ago to why writer would desire to use ambiguity, but let’s an initial think about how to identify it.

Semantic Ambiguity

Semantic faint is as soon as the contents of a sentence is ambiguity due to the words having actually multiple senses or meanings and the specific intention behind the sentence is not made apparent.

The example listed below comes native Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. In ~ this moment in the play, Hamlet’s recently deceased dad has showed up as a ghost, informing Hamlet he was murdered. Hamlet asks his father to provide him much more details, so that he can properly revenge his father’s death.

Haste me to understand ‘t, the I, v wings together swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.

As you have the right to see, the phrase ‘as swift as meditation’ is a simile! However, the meaning of this simile is ambiguous.

A, currently rare, an interpretation for words ‘meditation’ the was provided in Shakespeare’s time is ‘thought’. So, one method of interpreting what Hamlet is saying right here is that his revenge will be as fast as thought.

Our thoughts move very quickly in our mind: it doesn’t take long for you come look in ~ a cake (or various other food of her liking) and think the you want to eat it. Therefore, what Hamlet most likely intends come say is that he will obtain his revenge quickly.

However, another means to interpret the word ‘meditation’ is ‘serious and also sustained reflection or mental contemplation’. This kind of meditation is typically slow and considered. The takes a long time to meditate top top a complicated intellectual problem: periodically years! If we use this meaning of ‘meditation’ then the statement means the opposite of what we stated in the previous paragraph.

If Hamlet’s revenge is ‘as swift as meditation’, but meditation is slow, climate Hamlet’s revenge will certainly be slow.

Is Hamlet’s revenge quick or slow? Which an interpretation is correct? This concern is at the love of ambiguity.

The really fact the there is an ext than one an interpretation tells united state that over there is no solitary correct answer. The both. It’s the uncomfortable feeling of not having actually a solitary answer that renders ambiguity what the is. We need to sit through the many possible meanings in the one statement.

Let’s stop here, and also consider the reason why composers could utilise ambiguity.

Why produce ambiguity?

If this emotion of uncertainty developed by pass out is for this reason annoying, why execute writers create it?

One way to price this is to say that life is not straight forward: it contains much ambiguity.

For example, occasionally our feelings because that our friends and family room not simple.

Do you always feel total, unconditional love for her friends and family, or perform they sometimes annoy you or cause you distress? do you constantly hate college or room there times the you uncover it enjoyable?

Usually our feelings towards things in our resides vary and change, and that reflects us that there’s pass out in our suffer of the world. If ours feelings to be the very same all the time, this would certainly make life simplistic and also boring. Us are tested by ambiguity, and in embracing the ambiguity us become facility people.

Therefore, in producing ambiguity, authors deserve to highlight the complexities in life. In the Hamlet example, Hamlet most likely meant come say his revenge would be swift. However, Shakespeare has contained another definition to indicate that Hamlet’s revenge might not be as swift together he thinks. Together we check out in the rest of the play, Hamlet bring away a long time to in reality enact his revenge. He’s afraid of death the male who murdered his dad (his Uncle, it transforms out) and delays his revenge till the really end that the play.

One the the factors why it takes that so lengthy is that he security a many time overthinking the difficulty of even if it is or not kill his Uncle. He uses ‘serious and sustained reflection or mental contemplation’ to this difficulty – in various other words, meditation. So, as soon as we hear Hamlet say his revenge will certainly be ‘as swift as meditation’, if we know what Hamlet is like, we’ll understand that it’s in reality going to take him a lengthy time come enact his revenge.

It can be that Shakespeare has used this simile in one ironic way, to make a comment on how incapable of activity Hamlet really is.

Note: this details kind of ambiguity, wherein there room multiple meanings to a native (rather 보다 ambiguity created due come sentence structure, together we observed earlier), is called semantic ambiguity.

We can also use the word polysemy to explain this use of language.

Additionally, us might think about Shakespeare’s use of words ‘meditation’ a pun – since it has actually a dual meaning. But what does this example display us about the complexities of life?

Hamlet might want revenge but that doesn’t typical he’ll take it. Periodically we want something however for some factor we don’t always take it – even when us can. Sometimes, also if we think this thing is best for us, we have the right to be complete of doubts, uncertainties, and also insecurities around whether us really need to take it. We might say we want one thing, but we may act in ways that suggest otherwise. Periodically we might think we want something, but an additional unconscious component of united state doesn’t. We space contradictory, facility people full of faint thoughts, desires, and also motivations.

Shakespeare’s use of faint in the expression ‘as swift together meditation’ as such highlights those ambiguous, inconsistent thoughts and feelings in ~ the Hamlet character.

Narrative Ambiguity

Narrative ambiguity is when elements of the plot-line space not clear. Because that example, a character may have actually unclear motives or the relationship in between a pair of personalities could be ambiguous.

Before us start trying out how come write around ambiguity, let’s determine two more far-ranging forms that ambiguity that you have the right to use in your very own analyses. To perform this, we will look at a city by the American poet Robert Frost referred to as ‘Mending Wall’.

‘Mending Wall’ is about two neighbours whose rural properties are separated by a wall. End time, the wall surface breaks apart and also the neighbours work together to deal with it. In the process, however, the persona asks why they must keep a wall surface between them in ~ all. The trees on your properties (apple tree on one side and pine top top the other) space not going anywhere, and there space no cows come stray right into each rather land.

When the persona poses this question to their neighbour, the neighbour just says, ‘Good fences make an excellent neighbours’.

The city starts,

Something over there is the doesn’t love a wall,That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,And pour out the upper boulders in the sun;And renders gaps also two deserve to pass abreast.

And later

The gaps i mean, No one has seen them do or heard castle made,But at feather mending-time we uncover them there.

What is the ‘something’ the brings the wall down? Presumably, that is the forces of nature: wind, rain, hail, sun, animals. But later on, the persona says:

‘…Something there is the doesn’t love a wall,That desires it down.’ I can say ‘Elves’ come him,But it’s not elves exactly, and also I’d ratherHe said it for himself.

Elves? however not exactly? What on planet is Frost talking about?

In the food of the poem, what the persona thinks is bringing down the wall surface is never ever technically clarified. We have the right to guess and say it’s nature, and also perhaps part spiritual or mythical imagining that nature the comes in the kind of something prefer elves. But we have the right to never be completely sure.

This type of faint isn’t around two definitions to a native or phrase, it is about ambiguity behind the details the the story and also its plot. Us can call this rigid ambiguity.

Sometimes we check out this faint in novels as soon as the writer leaves united state hanging and we don’t quite understand what occurred to the protagonist in ~ the end.

Conceptual Ambiguity

Conceptual ambiguity refers to high bespeak ambiguity around the an interpretation of key themes or concepts in the text.

The ambiguity in ‘Mending Wall’ is expanded to what we might call theoretical ambiguity: ambiguity related to the ideas or principles in the poem.

By the finish of the poem, it could be that Frost isn’t talking about physical wall surfaces at all. Maybe this city is really around metaphorical walls in between people: the invisible emotional walls or barriers we put in between ourselves and also others. By the finish of the poem, when the neighbour says, ‘Good fences make good neighbours’, us don’t know whether Frost agrees through this emotion or not.

It’s just left there for united state to contemplate.

Does Frost think there need to be a wall surface or that there shouldn’t? when are ‘walls’ between people appropriate and when space they not? us don’t know.

The principles or ideas he’s trying to convey about human relationships room not merely answered: they room ambiguous in nature.

Again, this is component of the wealth of this poem. It highlights that human being relationship are complex and shaped by many changing and contradictory forces. We periodically put increase walls between ourselves and also others without learning why, and also sometimes there space seemingly wonder or mystical methods in i beg your pardon the ‘walls’ in between people have the right to suddenly disappear. The strange, inexplicable ambiguity in ours feelings and also relationships towards people is what renders our lives interesting and also rich – and also this may be what Frost is trying to attract attention to in this poem.

How come analyse faint – step-by-step

Now that we know what ambiguity is, and also we’ve talked around why writers might use it, we will discover how come write about it analytically.

When creating textual analysis, it’s ideal to provide the following things:

A techniqueAn example (or quotation)An explanation the the impact of the technique, andA link to one argument about the poem

Let’s occupational with the pass out in the quote: Something over there is the doesn’t love a wall

Step 1. Identify the Technique

The technique, as we know, is ambiguity. What is the ‘something’? It might be numerous things, however we don’t understand for sure.

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Step 2. Uncover your quotation

Now, once we explain what the effect of this an approach is, we want to make certain that we attach the impact to one argument around the poem. Let’s assume that our in its entirety argument around the poem is:

‘Mending Wall’ highlights the majesty of nature’

As you have the right to see, this is a different discussion to the one us were make earlier, yet that’s ok. There room several debates that have the right to be made about the poem.

Steps 3 & 4. Describe the technique, connect to argument

If the over sentence is our overall position top top the poem, we desire to attach the impact of the ambiguity in ours chosen instance to this argument. We might do it like this: