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Sunday, 22 March 2020
Attachment ambiguity in natural language processing
Attachment ambiguity is a type of syntactic ambiguity
It is a type of ambiguity where the doubt is about the syntactic structure of the sentence. That is, there is a possibility that a sentence could be parsed in many syntactical forms (a sentence may be interpreted in more than one way). The doubt is about which one among different syntactical forms is correct.
For example, the sentence “old men and women” is ambiguous. Here, the doubt is that whether the adjective old is attached with both men and women or men alone.
It arises from uncertainty of attaching a phrase or clause to a part of sentence. It usually happens when a sentence has more than two prepositional phrases.
In the sentence “the boy saw the girl with the telescope”, the uncertainty is about relating the prepositional phrase “with the telescope” to “the boy” or to “the girl”. This could end up with the following meaning based on the attachment;
1. The boy saw the girl carrying a telescope
2. The boy saw the girl through the telescope
The first meaning arises it we attach the prepositional phrase with “the girl” whereas the second one arises if we attach the prepositional phrase with “the boy”.
Consider the following sentence;
“Guna ate an ice cream with fruits from Chennai”
In this sentence, we have two prepositional phrases “with fruits” and “from Chennai”. Here the possible meanings are as follows;
1. Guna who is from Chennai ate an ice cream filled with fruits.
2. Guna ate an ice cream filled with fruits and the ice cream is brought from Chennai.
3. Guna who is from Chennai ate the ice cream with the help of fruits.
4. Guna with the help of fruits ate the ice cream which is brought from Chennai
Here we got four possibilities due to two prepositional phrases. Each one arises from how we attach the prepositional phrases “with fruits” and “from Chennai” to either “Guna” or the “ice cream”.
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