Baltic accent

2019 Vol. 10 № 3

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Ambiguity matters in linguistics and translation



Ambiguity implies that there are at least two distinct senses ascribed to one sign. It is in­herent to language and speech. In this article, I reflect on the types of ambiguity, its typology, production and effect and propose an algorithm for tackling ambiguity in translation. I posit that the choice of a translation strategy and the need for disambiguation in general depend on the type of ambiguity, its sources and character, i. e. whether ambiguity is intended or not. Intended ambiguity occurs when the speaker intentionally does not follow the logic of concep­tual clues (primes) and opts for a set of communicative strategies and linguistic means, which allow him/her to offer several possible interpretations of one event or even refer to several dif­ferent events. I explore a rarely analyzed event-referential ambiguity, which requires addi­tional conceptual information for disambiguation and, consequently, may pose a problem for translation. I argue that problems in disambiguation may occur for a variety of reasons: the translator and\or the recipient may have a wrong reference, have insufficient background knowledge to resolve the ambiguity or make wrong inferences since each recipient bears a different combination of cognitive, axiological, social, professional and gender attributes.


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