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Ambiguity

Conference Proceedings
Edited by Jela Kehoe

© VERBUM – vydavateľstvo KU

Zostavovateľ/Editor Mgr. Jela Kehoe

Recenzent/Reviewer Prof. Kathleen Dubs

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VERBUM – vydavateľstvo Katolíckej univerzity v Ružomberku Námestie Andreja Hlinku 60, 034 01 Ružomberok http://ku.sk, verbum@ku.sk, tel. +421444304693 kl. 308

elektronická online verzia (.pdf formát); 1. Vydanie ISBN 978 – 80 – 8084 – 620 – 6 EAN 9788080846206

Ambiguity
Conference Proceedings
Edited by Jela Kehoe

Ružomberok 2010

.................... . 6 Linguistics On Lexical Ambiguity ............................................................................... 77 Zsuzsanna Ujszászi Ambiguity of the Political Fiction for Children – Analysing Beverly Naidoo’s Out of Bounds ............................................................... 88 Mária Kiššová Provoking Discussion: Ambiguity as a Vitalizing Literary Tool ......................................................................... 27 Ada Böhmerová Language Ambiguity and Humour .... 70 Jaroslav Marcin Culture and Literature Intangible Referencing as a Means of Creating Ambiguity in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson ..... 46 Petra Huschová Ambiguity in Business Language – Communication Barrier or Effective Tool? ................ 60 Eva Kaščáková Ambiguity as an Option to Pursue ........................................................................................................................................................ 34 Magdaléna Bilá Readings of MAY/MIGHT in Academic and Administrative Style ... 105 Judit Ágnes Kádár From Bildungsroman to Assimilation Narrative–Three Chicano Novels .................................................. 98 Korinna Csetényi Ethno-Cultural Ambiguity in Recent American Gone Indian Stories ..................................................................................................... with Comparisons to Slovak ................................................. 8 Ágoston Tóth The Relationship between Semantic Ambiguity and Syntactic Differences .............. 18 Katalin Szerenci Lexical Ambiguity as a Linguistic and Lexicographical Phenomenon in English.............................................................................. 94 Simona Hevešiová The Ambiguity of Hannibal Lecter’s Evil ......................................... 112 Tamás Vraukó 4 ......................................................................................... 56 Dagmar Sageder English Language Teaching E-learning Ambiguities ........................................................................................................................................... the White Seneca................................................Table of Contents Introduction .................................................................................................the Camouflage Forest Superman White Savage and Two-Falling-Voices..........................

................................................................................................... 128 Péter Dolmányos Veils or Mirrors? The Use of Blogs as Means of Shaping Romanian Sociologists’ Personal and Professional Identities .................................................................................. 145 5 .......................................................................... 121 Zsolt Győri Ambiguous Afterwards – Haunted Places in the Poetry of Derek Mahon .......................................................................... Memory and Heritage in Three Films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger ..................................Resisting the Blimps: Ambiguity....................................................... 133 Valentina Marinescu Contributors................

between the 24th and 26th of June 2009 at the Catholic University in Ružomberok. who took part at the international interdisciplinary conference titled AMBIGUITY. but also the everyday discourse of the general public. 6 . Rather than treat ambiguity as a complication we should recognize it as an ingredient which adds value to an everyday discourse. witty entertainers. These proceedings present papers from sixteen scholars. our personal experience and knowledge of the world when unscrambling their meaning. The papers offer a peek at results of exploration into the concept of ambiguity and its shapes. literary expression and experience as well as the language learning process. The fact is that language is capable of employing ambiguity with skill not only in the professional discourse of writers. forms and nuances. at the Department of English Language and Literature of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Our own skills help us understand what is presented before us. Sometimes language is used in an ambiguous manner unintentionally. sometimes deliberately. In most cases this would be true but sometimes ambiguity occurs when an utterance can be understood in two or more different ways. Most ambiguities are easily solved. politicians or lawyers.Introduction Jela Kehoe It is typical for human nature to find a meaning in every exchange of ideas and people tend to think that language suggests a clear way to communicate ideas in an efficient manner. We utilize our ability to understand them using the larger physical context.

Linguistics 7 .

hence to the bank” (Verspoor 1997. different meanings would be assigned to different lexical entries. and the database is probably as fine-grained as possible. therefore. which is the source of English bank1 (ibid. Lyons (1995) points out. I would like to suggest. If homonymy were excluded. Some linguists. however. that these two senses of bank are etymologically unrelated in the English language: bank1 is a 15th century Italian borrowing. while bank2 originates from a Scandinavian word (Lyons 1995. On the other hand. delineating and defining senses. 108).6 possible interpretations per word on average (using WordNet sense categorization). To further complicate matters. it is either the “financial institution” or the “riverbank” sense that becomes active for the word bank. For instance. Mihalcea and Moldovan (2001) found 6. too. Can you. because it can refer to “the root of a plant”. these two senses are said to be connected to the same. 8 . distinguishing polysemy from homonymy may turn out to be more than challenging. however. If polysemy were excluded. Lyons (1977) argues that we can exclude either polysemy or homonymy from our descriptions. Well-known examples for homonymy are bank1 “financial institution” and bank2 “edge of a river or lake”. this Scandinavian form is related to the German source of the Italian “banca”. The similarity of their shape leads to relatedness in meaning. Enumeration of senses in Natural Language Processing (NLP) applications is an accepted practice. they have to decide whether a tiny difference in usage pattern constitutes a different sense or not. 215). For instance. that such a strategy should be aligned with the observation that speakers of a language are more or less unaware of the etymology of words. that dictionaries are for human use. The presence of multiple word senses is quite typical rather than exceptional. (1) We finally reached the bank. however. WordNet (Miller et al. however. Even tiny sense variations are kept distinct in WordNet. and lexicographers rely on the linguistic knowledge and intuitions of dictionary users. Homonyms are unrelated words that share the same spoken and written form. while a word that has two or more different. Note. Homonymy. 2 Lexical Semantics Cruse (2000) argues that ambiguous words have multiple senses that exhibit the phenomenon that he calls antagonism: you cannot focus your attention on two or more readings at the same time (Cruse 2000. including Verspoor (1997) disagree with this straightforward categorization.). In the Semcor corpus. The bank example shows that separating polysemy from homonymy may involve diachronic considerations. enumeration of senses in printed dictionaries is an accepted tradition. 1990). NLP usually resort to what Lyons calls the “maximize homonymy” approach – by neglecting polysemy. excludes polysemy from the description although it implements a host of other lexical and semantic relations. for instance. which also means that diachronically motivated polysemy-homonymy decisions lose their psycholinguistic relevance. The word bulb is an example of polysemy. but related meanings is polysemous.On Lexical Ambiguity Ágoston Tóth 1 Polysemy. polysemous lexeme. as well as “an electric lamp”. Delineating Senses The polysemy-homonymy distinction is clear and unproblematic for the first sight. 454). when you utter or hear the sentence in (1). give a full description of all the possible uses of a form? Can you enumerate all senses of a lexical entry? While the above questions are open-ended. the lexicon would have to be fairly underspecified for meaning to accommodate “remote” uses of any given form. a full-scale lexical database. pointing out that the “financial institution” sense is related to the “riverbank” sense since it was the riverbank where bankers were available: “going to the financial institution meant going to the edge of the river. 28). when the history of the language is rejected as a clue. Lexicographers are well aware of the problems of enumerating. Mihalcea and Moldovan (2001) point out that it is not uncommon that WN “word senses are so close together that a distinction is hard to be made even for humans” (Mihalcea and Moldovan 2001.

text mining. His example is the following: (4) I prefer dogs to bitches. Cruse (2000) points out that the relatedness of senses or readings is continuous in nature. The identity constraint makes it difficult for such a back-reference to assume a reading that is different from the preceding reading(s) of the given word. Let us. 109) –.). senses correspond to concepts that a word lexicalizes). which is made possible by the independent truth conditions associated with the discrete readings of the word light. autonomous readings will still remain available.He adds that “the speaker will have one reading in mind. return to the point that the enumeration of possible senses is an everyday practice in Natural Language Processing. “male of canine species” is acceptable (Cruse 2000. Cruse offers the following example (ibid. while the other reading can be contrasted with heavy (Cruse 2000. “A good test of this is whether a context can be imagined in which a Yes/No question containing the relevant word can be answered truthfully with both Yes and No” (Cruse 2000. the antonyms for the two readings of the adjective light mentioned above. Independent truth conditions for sentences with multiple readings indicate discreteness. One of the readings has the opposite dark. 106). The presence of multiple readings is also indicated by the existence of independent sense relations for the word. In Cruse (2000). in a machine translation (MT) setting. Application-specific inventories can also be used. 9 . He points out that this sentence cannot normally be used to express a situation in which Mary’s coat is lightweight and Jane’s is light collared. 107). 1) In the context of NLP. the “canine species” reading of dog is unavailable. 3 WSD The aim of Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD) is to assign the right sense to each word in a sentence. Cruse (2000) suggests the following procedures for the examination of the discreteness of readings. or vice versa. 107). Consider. WSD is considered to be a legitimate and important NLP subtask. so is Jane. antagonistic readings constitute distinct senses. but a more specific meaning. etc. 108). This is based on a presupposition which can be summed up in the following way: Words are assumed to have a finite and discrete set of senses from a dictionary. Word Sense Disambiguation is expected to support Machine Translation. 107). In this sentence. but antagonistic readings are ambiguous by nature and they show the highest degree of discreteness (Cruse 2000. 107). Discrete readings detected by the above tests do not necessarily cause ambiguity.): (2) Mary is wearing a light coat. Finally. too. The identity test (which is based on the identity constraint) is applicable to sentences that evoke the meaning of a word more than once through anaphoric back-references (Cruse 2000. Consider the example in (3): (3) Are you wearing a light coat? A person wearing a light-coloured. a lexical knowledge base. Information Retrieval. heavyweight coat can truthfully answer yes and/or no (Cruse 2000. or an ontology (in the latter. first of all. one can treat word translations as word senses… (Agirre and Edmonds 2007. the discreteness of various readings is also shown by the phenomenon that Cruse calls autonomy: when a reading becomes anomalous in a certain context. for instance. For instance. as well as various forms of polysemy. and this continuum includes “clear cases” of homonymy – he refers to the bank example (Cruse 2000. and the hearer will be expected to recover that reading on the basis of contextual clues: the choice cannot normally be left open” (ibid.

The results of the Semeval-1 (2007) competition were summarized in the following way: after decades of research in the field it is still unclear whether WSD can provide a relevant contribution to real-world applications. too. 26 groups and organizations took part in the socalled “all-words” WSD subtask. Follow-up events were organized in 2001 (Senseval-2) and 2004 (Senseval-3). (1991). even when they are in machine-readable form. Section 5. These systems are the so-called “unsupervised” or “unattended” systems. Hirst (1987). too. 61% accuracy. recall: 0. Question Answering.3. It turned out that the best strategy was to decrease the number of senses. Karov and Edelman (1998). (1992). They all analyzed the same test corpus taken from the Penn Treebank II. (1994). thesauri and encyclopaedias seem to be full of relevant information for WSD. just to name a few. (1993) and Miller et al. etc. are mostly compiled for human use. This result questions if this type of sense disambiguation can be reliably carried out in any way. see Yarowsky (1995) and Schütze (1998) among others. Please note that these were complex.1 WSD types WSD typology is based on the information sources the WSD system uses for training and/or bootstrapping. Annotated corpora contain additional linguistic information.e. Under less ideal conditions. Examples are many: Lesk (1986). Gale et al. state-of-the-art systems. In the Senseval competitions.2 also introduce two knowledge-based (albeit non-mainstream) systems. the competing systems are trained on a training corpus and tested on a testing corpus that are manually sense-tagged by linguists.651) (Snyder and Palmer 2004). In 2007. However. the worst system scored 28%. • • 3. Those systems that try to exploit them are referred to as “knowledge-bases” system. The inter-annotator agreement rate (i. Litkowsky & Hargraves 2007. even the best system went below 40% accuracy (precision: 0. and their applicability to NLP is highly debated (see Ide and Véronis 1993 on this topic).2 Evaluation The state of the art in WSD is best illustrated by the Senseval competition.651. minimalistic solution that simply selected the most frequent sense in every ambiguous case reportedly resulted in approx. See Brown et al. 34) 10 . the information sources used for these systems. Leacock et al. Bilingual parallel corpora can also be exploited for WSD purposes on the basis of the observation that a foreign language equivalent of a word may be enough to (or at least help to) identify a sense. (Navigli. For the Senseval-2 data. • • Unannotated corpora are no less and no more than authentic samples of a human language. The corpus had to be annotated using WordNet synonym set labels. since some items preserve some of their ambiguity in the target language. hand-made rules and heuristics can also be used to improve WSD performance. It means that the state-of-the-art methods improved on this baseline by 4% only. i. The first Senseval competition took place in 1998. The maximum overall accuracy achieved by the best system was 65%.1 and 5. Dictionaries.e. such as Information Retrieval. Examples include Hearst (1991). to eliminate the senses rather than disambiguate them. In Senseval-3. For this occasion. Remember that this figure is from a timeconsuming manual annotation project carried out by skilled professionals. Some WSD techniques can work directly with them. too. the WSD process itself requires no further supervision). in which scholars test and compare their word sense disambiguation systems on data distributed for this particular purpose. The best case 65% accuracy is less than satisfying. an alternative. etc. however. Of course. This approach has its limitations. when the two human annotators selected the same sense when preparing the training and testing corpora) in the Senseval-2 case was also quite low at 72%. a follow-up competition was organized (Semeval-1). The systems that use them are called “supervised” WSD systems (this term is from machine learning. they grouped together tiny sense variations thereby reducing the original ambiguity level.

so that high-level. For this reason.3 below).e. since it is the only “clue” for successful operation. 22) underline that the level of sense granularity inherently affects WSD systems (consider WordNet-based WSD. mouth of a cave. and “splitting is … dividing or separating them into different meanings” (Kilgarriff 1997. computational linguists often find dictionaries (which are compiled for human use) incoherent. etc.).3 Open Problems WSD faces serious pitfalls which may effectively prevent certain.3. The current trend is to use large windows that cover multiple sentences at the same time. First of all. Sense division is problematic. a lot of words are listed in more than one synonym set. not just performance testing. but should be integrated in real NLP applications such as Machine translation or multilingual IR” (“Semeval-2” 2009). The difference between in vitro and in vivo evaluation can be extended to the entire practice of WSD. from the body part meaning and from each other? 11 . and bears closer relation to distributional and situational views of meaning. In the compilation of a dictionary entry. So. they point out that WSD has been developed for NLP applications (information retrieval. hand-made “golden sample” (the expected output). (Ide and Véronis 1998. i. too. 24) Ide and Véronis (1998) express their concerns about evaluation issues. The more usual. Ide and Véronis (1998. mouth of a bottle.1 Lexicographical Practice Since the dictionary-writing tradition requires lexicographers to come up with entries and subentries enumerating different uses. 9). too. “In vivo” evaluations should measure the increase of overall performance in a given NLP system (Ide and Véronis 1998:25). Whether lexicographers lump or split senses is a matter of tradition. The generative approach develops a discourse-dependent representation of sense. for testing purposes. probably using binary decisions (correct/incorrect) made on the basis of a prepared. A moving-window approach is simple and effective for gaining immediate context. 4 Other Linguistic Fields with Correlating Findings 4. established set of senses which exist independent of context-fundamentally the Aristotelian view. topical information can be acquired. they have to decide whether a tiny difference in usage pattern constitutes a different sense or not. precision and recall are usually measured at the output of the WSD tool. In practice. The following brief survey is based on Ide and Véronis (1998). do not usually make their way into actual NLP applications. editorial policy and subjective decisions. The role of context is a key question in WSD research. the Senseval competition (cf. machine translation. The problem lies in the fact that the nature of contextual information is rather complex: context and lexical meaning show an intricate interplay in human languages (also see section 4.2) is an example of “in vitro” evaluation. assuming only underspecified sense assignments until context is taken into the play. on the other hand. general-purpose WSD techniques. which exhibits a low performance that seems to follow from the extremely high homonymy level of the WN database. WSD methods tailored to the needs of specific NLP tasks are rare (but also see section 5 of this paper). most or all existing methods from producing useful results. but there is not too much we can do about it: categorizing senses is difficult. “lumping is considering two slightly different patterns of usage as a single meaning”. too. Ide and Véronis also highlight the problem of sense enumeration and call our attention to Pustejovsky’s sense generation: The enumerative approach assumes an a priori. From this perspective. since the actual NLP application context and the corresponding testing methodology are missing. for instance: would you separate the meanings mouth of the river. readings or meanings of a headword. section 3. Consider the word mouth. Consider the following programmatic statement from the description of the “Cross-Lingual Word Sense Disambiguation” task of the upcoming Semeval-2 competition: “There is a general feeling in the WSD community that WSD should not be considered as an isolated research task.

43): (5) Mary finally bought a good umbrella. which is based on sense enumeration.4. “As an alternative. for instance (Pustejovsky 1995. extremist positions have already been taken. 47). 39). Consider this: 12 . Compare. The context may facilitate a selection process: existing readings or established senses are selectively activated and suppressed. but only this latter reading is implied in sentence (8) (Pustejovsky 1995. which adds meaning to the semantic content of the lexical item in bold. it cannot account for the Creative Use of Words. First. (10) The coffee burnt my tongue. John was looking for a good meal. 4. in (10). linear enumeration-based organization of dictionary entries” (Pustejovsky 1995.). possibly metaphorical or metonymical. When the established senses do not fit into the context. is inadequate for several reasons. Compare the following sentences: (7) Mary cooked a meal. His examples for the creative use include various readings of the adjective good. one might simply keep the meaning of good vague enough to cover all the cases mentioned above. such as factive vs. are encoded as separate lexical entries.3 Theoretical Linguistics: the Role of the Context Cruse (2000. Finally. 120). Consider the following sentences (taken from Cruse 2000. (8) Mary cooked the carrots. The definition of good in (5) is “to function well”. which is the process that makes it possible for words to “assume new senses in novel contexts” (Pustejovsky 1995. world knowledge or pragmatic effects could further specify the manner in which something is good…” (Pustejovsky 1995. the teacher’s gender is added.4 “Extremists” As far as the importance of the context in lexical meaning is concerned. In (9). Then. Pustejovsky points out that cook in (7) implies both “creating a meal” and “change-of-state”. The meaning that is (hopefully) found is coerced by the context (ibid. 120-123) lists three ways in which the context can influence the meaning of a lexical item.2 Theoretical Linguistics: Sense Enumeration Pustejovsky (1995) points out that conventional lexicon design. non-factive use. Pustejovsky argues that overlaps of core and peripheral meaning components cannot be described in a “flat. while it means “tasty” in (6). 43). “because of a tacit assumption that speakers are usually trying to convey an intelligible message” Cruse (2000. 121): (9) Our maths teacher is on maternity leave. 39). Cruse argues that both sentences contain hyponymic enrichment. 4. 50-54). Pustejovsky points out that sense enumeration would involve the creation of separate entries for both (and many more) uses. which is described in the following way: “Word senses are not atomic definitions but overlap and make reference to other senses of the word” (Pustejovsky 1995. Finally. the listener is supposed to look for a matching meaning extension. although this statement is meant to refer to “maximally enumerative” implementations in which different syntactic interpretations. A sense enumerative lexicon also fails to accommodate the phenomenon referred to as the Permeability of Word Senses. 48). the Expression of Multiple Syntactic Forms is also hindered in enumerative models (Pustejovsky 1995. meanings can be modulated by the context in various other ways. the high temperature of the coffee is implied. (6) After two weeks on the road.

intuitively appealing. 5. but it is also augmented by additional knowledge sources (most importantly. whereas the ‘non-root’ words of the LF are also connected to each other by (indirect) paths (Dolan. 116). Source. Logical_Object. 21). 7). and was also augmented by the full text of Microsoft Encarta. The editors of MindNet collected and stored information about the patterning of word pairs with known similarity (Dolan. For instance. “[D]efinition and example sentence LFs within MindNet are allowed to overlap freely on shared words” (Dolan. Dolan. Similarity is computed using the paths with the highest weights. including Hypernym. and the system’s understanding of a word’s meaning is nothing more than the pattern of activation over the semantic network. It seems that “meaning” consists of the process of meaning (Clark 1992). Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. 16. all they do is store the LFs without disambiguation (thereby eliminating disambiguating errors or the human intervention that would find and correct the errors). 13 . but his theory also incorporates the context-independent “pre-established senses” (Cruse 2000. but it offers a similarity measure that shows how similar two words are in some context (Dolan. The relationships between the ‘root word’ of the LF (corresponding to the headword of the source MRD entry) and other words stored in the corresponding LF structure are expressed by semantic relations and constitute direct paths. is that there is no such thing as a discrete word sense. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. Synonym.1 MindNet The MindNet database was derived automatically from formidable machine-readable sources: the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and the American Heritage 3rd Edition dictionaries.The notion that words have a meaning – what Lakoff and Johnson (1980) call the “container metaphor” – is now hard to maintain. Vanderwende and Richardson connect their research to Cruse’s (1986) theory of lexical meaning. emphasis original) They argue that they implement Cruse’s sense-spectra. among others. 291) Cruse (2000) argues that the context can influence the meaning of a lexical item (Cruse 2000. The following example illustrates a path that connects car and person (ibid. Words should be seen as information tokens that. There is no explicit hierarchy of concepts in MindNet. it directly parallels Cruse’s notion of sense modulation (Dolan. 5 Other Approaches The non-mainstream approaches to WSD discussed in this section are important because they offer ways to evade some of the common pitfalls of WSD. 7). Microsoft Encarta) that deliver unknown words. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. we can join the following two paths (each from a different LF): car–Hypernym→vehicle and vehicle←Hypernym– truck into the extended path car–Hypernym→vehicle←Hypernym–truck (Dolan. 9). Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. The derivational process was carried out by a parser that compiled syntactic trees and ‘logical forms’ (LFs). labelled graphs that abstract away from surface word order and hierarchical syntactic structure to describe semantic dependencies among content words” (Dolan. While this runs counter to much current work in WSD.): car←Logical_Object–drive–Logical_subject→motorist–Hypernym→person Extended paths can be found between words of different LF graphs. Logical_Subject. Attribute. to some extent guide the meaning process. The database can be treated and exploited as a relational lexicon that contains “about 25 semantic relation types …. His theoretical standpoint seems much more natural. 68) and “default readings” (Cruse 2000. Subclass and Purpose” (Dolan. Logical forms are “directed. From a practical point of view. and they also give us further insight into the nature of lexical ambiguity. Goal. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. which are amoeba-like objects of a continuous nature (Dolan. there are only usage patterns. Instead. 9-10). Part. 6-15). Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. too. MindNet is pre-trained using two machine-readable dictionaries. 13). Their position is the following: A fundamental assumption underlying … MindNet’s approach to lexical representation. 120123). (Haase and Rothe-Neves 1999. 14). Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000.

it had been selected to meet the needs of MindNet. even a small number of encounters with a word can potentially provide a very detailed notion of what it must mean. We should not forget that the all-important textual context referred to above was in fact taken from dictionary and encyclopaedia entries in the MindNet project. the query string will be changed and resubmitted until an appropriate result is reached. MindNet and Véronis and Ide's neural network are for different purposes: MindNet outputs a similarity value which is useful for information retrieval and possibly for other "high-level" NLP tasks.MindNet stores the typical usage patterns of the new words and links them to usage information about known words. The inhibitory links between the sense nodes (of a word node) will help the network reach a stable configuration in which only one sense node per word is activated. and provides labelled relationships linking content words. which does seem a fitting task. Cruse 2000. 116). Each sense node was connected to all words that were present in the definition of that particular sense (words had been lemmatized and function words had been excluded). 68. Given this strong notion of lexical context. which means that no external tools are required to retrieve data from the network. part-of-speech labelling or syntactic parsing of the input is not required. The resulting network was restricted to "a few thousand" nodes in the experiment. A word’s meaning is nothing more than ‘the company it keeps’. The system featured inhibitory links between the sense nodes that belonged to the same headword. i. resolves intrasentential anaphora. instead. and through these sense nodes. I see this as a practical realization of Cruse’s antagonistic readings. but this ‘company’ involves more than statistical co-occurrence information. which may not be the case. while Véronis and Ide's network model is created to carry out WSD. which was connected to nodes that stood for the senses listed in the dictionary for that headword. since the query strings in an information retrieval system are likely to be good sources of context to be matched against the usage patterns in the MindNet database. The words of the definition were themselves nodes with a sense-node structure. but further details are not provided. the input words are said to be disambiguated. The information stored in MindNet may turn out to be more appropriate for certain Natural Language Processing tasks than for others.2 Word Meaning as Spreading Activation MindNet's approach to storing lexical meaning in a huge network is partly similar to the spreading activation network described by Véronis and Ide (1990). Véronis and Ide exploited the definitions of the Collins English Dictionary in the following way: each headword of the dictionary was represented by a word node (neuron). the network built by Véronis and Ide is not only a storage space for information but also a query system. When paths are found connecting the initially activated nodes. 36) I do not find this view on lexical meaning completely satisfying: I miss the place for “established senses” and “default readings” described by Cruse (Cruse 2000. huge subnets of word nodes (and that of the sense nodes accompanying them) can be activated. Let me also point out that as long as a human user is making the queries. These nodes activate the sense nodes. Instead. 14 . The traditional approach to WSD concentrates on the second phase only. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. which is determined by the headword definitions in the source dictionary. the “company” of words used for compiling this database was not meant to be a representative sample of the English language.3 Sense Discovery Ide and Véronis (1998. 5. As we have seen. those neurons that are along these paths will get more and more activated in multiple passes of spreading activation. taking the existence of a reliable sense inventory for granted. The authors also keep referring to machine translation. which was still a huge network. context in our terms is a richly annotated linguistic analysis that normalizes long-distance dependencies. Note that this approach seems to presuppose that all the readings listed in the source dictionary are in fact antagonistic. 3) bifurcates the problem of WSD into two subproblems: sense discrimination (delineating the senses) and assigning senses to words. The authors often mention and inspect the needs of Information Retrieval. Also note that the system works with unannotated input.e. (Dolan. 5. Querying ("running") the network involves the activation of at least two word nodes. Therefore. Compiling the network means building an artificial neural network with the right topology. At this final stage.

Also notice. Contextual similarity is measured using second-order cooccurrence information: instead of using the context in which the given token occurs. It groups the tokens of words into clusters.). Word Sense Disambiguation. along the lines drawn by Palmer (1998. as part of the international ParGram effort. Why do we have to take lexical ambiguity into consideration in our grammar-writing project? Currently accepted system design is based on a highly modular view on language and on the hypothesis of the separability of modules and NLP tasks. Senses of word tokens should be aligned and matched against each other at a higher level. The text context used for this process was quite large: the author used a 50-word window (with the keyword in the centre). focuses on sense discrimination and tries to do away with sense labelling. by examining the amount of overlap between two vectors. unannotated. although it does not rely on the word vector method but uses “small-world” graphs instead. Véronis (2004) uses the World Wide Web as corpus in his unsupervised system. The authors referred to in section 5 seems to manage without WSD: their systems work with ‘raw’. however. is a prime example of this strategy. and WSD cannot be solved as a classification problem. Our lexicon is going to contain a great number of words including 15 . Véronis (2004) also argues against the practical applicability and even the feasibility of computerized or human word sense disambiguation using pre-listed senses. 7). The HyperLex system (Véronis 2004) is similar. I would like to argue that the non-traditional approaches to WSD introduced in section 5 of this paper point into the same direction: word sense is not to be grasped at the level of individual words. that the perceived ambiguity level of human communication is much lower than what is anticipated on the basis of the ambiguity level of our word stock. probably at the level of discourse. As far as lexicon design is concerned. Dolan. and their position is supported by the data in Fellbaum. potentially ambiguous input. which are said to be much better at isolating infrequent senses. co-occurring items are registered and the number of co-occurrences are stored. This approach to WSD is directly useful for Information Retrieval. the resolution of lexical ambiguity seems an optimization problem. The usual NLP approach to resolving lexical ambiguity.Schütze’s (1998) approach. machines cannot be expected to perform reliably on a task that is incorrectly formulated” (ibid. Vanderwende and Richardson (2000) argue that “the traditional view of WSD as involving the assignment of one or more discrete senses to each word in the input string” cannot be used to implement broad-coverage NLP systems (Dolan. and “like humans. Schütze argues that second-order co-occurrence information is less sparse and more robust. the 1000 most frequent “neighbours” were selected as the dimensions of the space. As far as lexical semantics is concerned. Vanderwende and Richardson 2000. When the data was collected for a given word. we can see how closely they are related. Disambiguation is not nearly as demanding as it seems from an NLP perspective: an efficient mechanism to filter out inconsistent readings must be part of our linguistic intuition. I would like to hypothesize that “disambiguation” is really about maintaining the semantic integrity of messages by suppressing irrelevant “noise” that is potentially introduced by words and other linguistic signs. in which for each word. Later he formulates the Strong Contextual Hypothesis for Senses: “Two occurrences of an ambiguous word belong to the same sense to the extent that their contextual representations are similar” (Schütze 1998. which he calls “context-group discrimination” is unsupervised and requires no external knowledge-sources. 6 HunGram. Our Plans This research has been carried out in the preliminary phase of a research project that aims to construct a full LFG grammar of the Hungarian language and implement it in the Xerox Linguistic Environment. Moreover. 101). As a result. he uses the “the context representation from the words that these words in turn co-occur within the training corpus” (Schütze 1998. 117). 5). They point out that not even humans seem to excel in carrying out word-sense disambiguation tasks. correct formulation of linguistic tasks and careful system design should be of primary concern. The method creates word vectors. Grabowski and Landes (1998). 98). we would like to enumerate only those sense distinctions that can be identified by differences in argument structure and/or selectional restrictions. notice that this approach may effectively replace the extremist position that denies the existence of pre-established senses and emphasizes the all-important role of context. sentence boundaries were ignored. each cluster containing contextually similar occurrences. however. because semantically related words are supposed to “co-occur with similar neighbours and their vectors will have considerable overlap” (Schütze 1998. Therefore. The method.

H. Cambridge. Hirst. WordNet: An electronic lexical database. D..). 1991. J. 1999. New York: Oxford University Press. and J. In C. which may include selectional attributes and important information about the argument structure which is not otherwise encoded in the lexicon or the grammar.. Proceedings of the 29th Annual Meeting. Yarowsky. co-financed by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. E. Mercer. L. 1986. in part. F. Cruse. Dolan. Leacock (Eds. it should be able to acquire morphological. Rothe-Neves.) 1998. 2009 from http://semeval2. Performance and Confidence in a Semantic Annotation Task. “Using bilingual materials to develop word sense disambiguation methods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Arenas of language use. “Introduction to the Special Issue on Word Sense Disambiguation: The State of the Art. Haase.” Proceedings of the 7th Annual Conf. N. P. G. Pietra.php?location=tasks#T8 Agirra. Cambridge and London: MIT Press. Fellbaum (Ed. Cambridge University Press. Polysemy: Theoretical and computational approaches. by OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund.eu/semeval2. and R. United Kingdom. Retrieved 31 Aug.. of the University of Waterloo Centre for the New OED and Text Research. W. and P.. 1-40. 291-292. Oxford. A. but not necessarily in different entries. and associational properties of words and phrases. Clark. Pietra. D. Brown. 24. and D. A.. Edmonds..microsoft. and J. Our future plans include a statistical or connectionist external tool: the parser’s output can be channelled through this tool and when used with an authentic training corpus. Véronis. Springer. Chicago. Meaning in language. 22. Retrieved 30 July.aspx?pubid=1039 Fellbaum. and S. 1992. V. H. L. Véronis. and S. 2000. and C. Cruse. A. Landes. W. References “Semeval-2”. 1991. Richardson. 2005 from http://research. D. 257-266. 2007. “Polysemy in a Broad-Coverage Natural Language Processing System”. V. syntactic. D.. In Y.polysemous and homonymous entries. “What else should a neurobiological theory of language account for? Behavioral and Brain Sciences”. C. Grabowski. “Word-sense disambiguation using statistical methods”. G. Ide. Ravin. A. William A. Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Acknowledgements I gratefully acknowledge that the research reported here has been supported. Association for Computational Linguistics. N./B09/1/KONV-2010-0007 project. 2000. K.” Computational Linguistics.com/research/pubs/view. M. which is implemented through the New Hungary Development Plan.2. S. IL: University of Chicago Press. and R. grant number: K 72983) and by the TÁMOP 4. 1987.1. Word Sense Disambiguation: Algorithms and Applications. Lexical Semantics. Gale. Ide. 1998. 1993.Tokyo. Hearst. “Extracting knowledge bases from machine-readable dictionaries : Have we wasted our time?” KB&KS'93 Workshop.fbk.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Machine Translation. 1998. Studies in Natural Language Processing. “Noun homograph disambiguation using local context in large corpora. 16 . Semantic interpretation and the resolution of ambiguity. J. 1992. Vanderwende. except when required by the grammar. United Kingdom.

Gazdar. Schütze.” ARPA Workshop on Human Language Technology. Cambridge. G.” Proceedings of SENSEVAL-3: Third International Workshop on the Evaluation of Systems for the Semantic Analysis of Text. 1986.. Cambridge.Karov. Grammar and Meaning: Essays in Honour of Sir John Lyons. Miller. J. Miller. In: International Journal of Lexicography. and R. “Automatic Word Sense Discrimination”. 289-295.WordNet: Principles for automatic generation of a coarse grained WordNet”. 1998. Computational Linguistics. Massachusetts. PhD thesis. Proceedings of FLAIRS 2001. and M. 24(1). In F. Semantics. and S. A. Palmer. Ide. Ch. Beckwith. Linguistic Semantics: An introduction. and E. Computational Linguistics. pp. and G. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lyons. M. June 1986.” Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. J. J. 1995.” Proceedings of COLING90. 1995. C. Toronto. and Moldovan. Cambridge University Press. “Are WordNet sense distinctions appropriate for computational lexicons?” SIGLEX98. Lakoff. 24(1). “EZ. Johnson. SENSEVAL. ACL-04. The Generative Lexicon. 1990. Palmer (Ed. “Corpus-based statistical sense resolution. and K.244. Lesk. Morgan Kaufman. 1980. 1995. Landes. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh. Yarowsky. 1977. San Francisco. M. 24-26.. 2001. H. Contextually-Dependent Lexical Semantics. 2004. G. Snyder. Key West. Towell. C. David. Pustejovsky. and M. Leacock. 240-243. New Jersey. Véronis. IL: University of Chicago Press. “Unsupervised word sense disambiguation rivalling supervised methods. “Automated Sense Disambiguation Using Machine-readable Dictionaries: How to Tell a Pine Cone from an Ice Cream Cone. J. and N. 1990.. G.” Proceedings of the ARPA Human Language Technology Worskshop. 454-459. Gross. S. Thomas. 1995. “Using a semantic concordance for sense identification. Miller. J. Voorhees. Barcelona. “Polysemous relations”. Verspoor. “The English All-word task. Kilgarriff. UK. “Introduction to WordNet: an on-line lexical database”. G. R. Herstmonceux.. MA: MIT Press. 3 (4). Metaphors we live by. Chicago. Fellbaum. 1994. March 1994. M. Chodorow. Canada.. 235 . D. G. Palmer. M. B.. FL. 1-25. “Similarity-based word sense disambiguation”. Sussex. 1993. A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.). Leacock. Claudia. Mihalcea.” Proceedings of the 1986 SIGDOC Conference. “Word sense disambiguation with very large neural networks extracted from machine readable dictionaries.. 17 . Cambridge. D. Plainsboro. Lyons.. 1997. R. 1998. Y. Edelman. 1998. A.

” (Bialystok 1993.The Relationship Between Semantic Ambiguity and Syntactic Differences Katalin Szerenci Introduction The paper intends to investigate the grammatical competence of non-native speaker teachers (NNS) and native speaker teachers (NS) of English in light of their performance on the metalinguistic task of detecting syntactic or structural ambiguity. but then “the problem is to separate that knowledge of language from the knowledge that is needed to use the language. As a result. Metalinguistic knowledge and language proficiency. In contrast. the starting point is the age of one and a half. If it is not a different kind of thing from linguistic ability. rather than real language use? Does the structural complexity of certain grammatical phenomena influence judgments? Do competencies required in detecting ambiguity develop automatically or can they be taught? The paper is based on a comparative analysis of the metalinguistic performance of practising teachers of English working at secondary grammar schools in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County. by giving it a separate label. are usually considered to constitute its separate factors. high verbal intelligence and sophisticated use of language as a tool for communication have been found as variables influencing metalinguistic development (cf. It is clear that a proper definition of metalinguistic ability must be a compromise between these two positions. Hungary in the early 2000s. repeats words. though both appear to be part of linguistic ability. The Notions of Metalinguistic Ability and Knowledge Contradictory views have been presented with regard to the concept of metalinguistic ability. the data gained seem to provide a very complex picture. While one would probably expect NS to surpass NNS in detecting structural ambiguity. According to some experts it must be recognisable as a distinct achievement while integrating into other aspects of linguistic and cognitive skills. Evidence for the early development of metalinguistic abilities in the native language is provided by Clark (1978). observing that two-year-old children are able to attend to linguistic structure and function. The child’s creativity. Nonetheless. van Kleeck 1982). Accepting such an approach to the definition of metalinguistic ability. The main focus of the current investigation concerns potential similarities and differences between the metalinguistic behaviour of the two groups of teachers obtained in the form of answers to the following questions: Do the judgments of the two groups of teachers vary because NNS rely on descriptive rules provided in different English grammars. If metalinguistic ability is a mechanism separate from linguistic ability. might result in assuming that metalinguistic ability is independent of linguistic ability that is responsible for using language. With the linguistic data having been transferred into numerical values. then presumably it does not need a different kind of label and certainly does not need a different theory to account for its development. when the child. In Birdsong’s (1989) overview of metalinguistic abilities and activities that are arranged by the chronological order of their emergence. The study belongs to the line of research that examines sentence-level data. wishing to imitate adult pronunciation. among others. Depending on individual differences. 4) However. The advantage of treating metalinguistic ability as an autonomous skill is that in this case accounts of linguistic development have no relevance for its development. major metalinguistic abilities . one should find out how to relate it to linguistic ability.develop by the age of 12. then there may exist unique explanations of how it functions and how it develops. a knowledge base of its own together with a separate course of development. both quantitative and qualitative analyses were carried out. there is another view in which metalinguistic ability forms an integral part of linguistic ability allowing the possibility to be similar to it in certain aspects and different in others. Metalinguistic ability may be considered to equal knowledge about language. and their cognitive and linguistic development enhances their metalinguistic abilities.including the ability to judge acceptability. most accounts of metalinguistic ability tend to treat it distinctly from the notion of linguistic ability. and how to reconcile its development with the facts and theories of linguistic ability. to recognise paraphrases and to understand structural ambiguity . teaching one is no means of 18 .

The traditional approach to identifying and resolving ambiguity usually distinguishes lexical (part of speech or category) ambiguity: Mary looked very hard. Formal metalinguistic knowledge. 108) Many syntactic ambiguities arise from the possibility of alternative constituent structures: We need more highly trained scientists. or sentence can be understood in two ways. and obviously. understand. Pinkal 1995) claim that lexical ambiguity includes only instances of homonymy and polysemy: I deposited $100 in the bank. Actual or potential uncertainty of meaning. (Radford 1999. 75) Types of Structural Ambiguity A detailed analysis is provided on the topic in Hirst (1992. however declares that they refer to different things. and produce grammatical sentences without much access to the system of rules and conditions that makes those sentences grammatical. The importance of context in which an ambiguous word is used should be emphasised. It is the level of explicitness characteristic of metalinguistic knowledge that distinguishes it from linguistic knowledge. Quantifiers and quantifying adverbs are to be found as causes for ambiguity as to the range of applications. While knowledge of grammar may be part of what is meant by metalinguistic knowledge. it is the Adverbial 19 . For social psychologists the term is inseparable from situations characterised by some kind of uncertainty. the Appointment Committee sat on it for six months. According to Cruse (2000) what used to be called as ambiguity tests are more likely to be labelled as tests for discreteness: Mary is wearing a light coat. whereas vague expressions allow infinitely many precisifications. Others (cf. The author introduces four basic types of structural ambiguity and labels the first type as ambiguity due to attachment problems emphasizing the importance of modifier placement. which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. ”Ambiguous expressions can assume an arbitrarily but finitely large number of readings. Ambiguity is different from vagueness. Definitions and Types of Ambiguity Depending on the particular aspect of life or scientific discipline. whereas pronouns and indexical adverbs may lead to referential ambiguity. and in case a sentence calls for two antagonistic readings to be activated at the same time.” (Pinkal 1995. (Cruse 2000. (Hindle and Rooth 1993. shifting from ambi–both ways. A different kind of structural ambiguity occurs when a given word or phrase can be taken as modifying any one of two (or more) different constituents: I saw the man with the telescope. The content of metalinguistic knowledge must be broader than any that applies to knowledge of a particular language. various definitions have been provided. Due to its flexible position in a sentence. Pinkal (1995) considers the two phenomena to be related. or punning: When the Chair in the Philosophy Department became vacant. 66) ambiguity relates to the scope of the negative particle so for this reason this type is commonly known as scope ambiguity. 106) Antagonism is criterial for ambiguity. 103) In another example: The President could not ratify the treaty. 7) Metalinguistic knowledge necessarily includes some detailed representation of those rules. For language teachers it may function as a challenging task with the help of which learners can be forced to disambiguate sentences containing syntactic ambiguity. especially if a word. knowledge of the abstract principles is distinct from knowledge of a particular language. Whenever a sentence has more than one possible parse.improving the other. it seems to be inadequate to equal the concept of metalinguistic. agere/actum to drive. 131-163). it gives rise to the phenomenon of zeugma. Semantic ambiguity arises when a word or concept has an inherently diffuse meaning based on widespread or informal usage: Iraqi head seeks arms. From a linguistic point of view McArthur (1996.” The presence of context definitely enables one to disambiguate many statements that are ambiguous in isolation. in other words a conscious awareness of the formal properties of the target language is regarded to be less important than the ability to detect systematic and meaningful patterning in it.” (Bialystok 1993. Metalinguistic knowledge should be knowledge of the abstract structure of language. (Cruse 2000. “One is able to identify. phrase. structural disambiguation is necessary. which derives from Latin ambiguitas–as ”acting both ways. act. Bialystok (1993) conceptualises it to be an identifiable body of knowledge to be distinguished from knowledge of grammar. 36) defines “ambiguity”. For some authors (Radford 1999) the categorial status of a particular phrase would belong to the simple case of structural ambiguity. We talk about elliptical ambiguity when certain predicates can occur in multiple argument positions: He loves his dog more than his children. so is Jane.

realized by a Prepositional Phrase that will typically be the reason for such type of ambiguity: The door near the stairs with the ’Members Only’ sign had tempted Nadia from the moment she first entered the club. When a sentence contains a sub-clause. Ross is easy to please. the preference is that it is a sentential complement modifying the verb ”signal”. In cases ambiguity was detected but the difference between possible interpretations was not clear enough or was missing. For the reasons mentioned above Schütze (1996) underlines the methodological significance of controlling subject and task related factors in metalinguistic tasks like ambiguity judgments. 127) puts it: “A difference in syntactic form always spells a difference in meaning.” As Bolinger (1968. Methods of Data Analysis on the Ambiguity Judgment Task (AJT) Unlike Coppieters (1987). In case an ambiguous sentence was found to be ambiguous and rewording was clear enough to illustrate the difference between the two interpretations. There are at least four different structures that can underlie sentences with the following structure: NP+be+Adjective+to Infinitive: Ross is eager to please. The third type of structural ambiguity. and the other one: Last week an 18th century chair was bought by a dealer with beautifully carved legs. and there is at present no agreement on any general principles that can be used for disambiguation. Participles and adjectivals can be troublesome when they occur at the end of the clause: The manager approached the boy smoking a cigar. an unambiguous sentence was considered to be ambiguous. Ambiguity.. The preferred reading is that the clause is a relative clause modifying the guide. Similarly. Interestingly. And Ross looked up the elevator shaft. The use of non-finite clauses can easily lead to more than one interpretation. Due to the fact that meaning is always more important than structure. If. the priority of meaning should be acknowledged. Hirst (1992) declares that if a word is categorially ambiguous. no score was given. at least without context. If an unambiguous sentence was recognized by the respondent to be unambiguous. has more often been presented as a lexical phenomenon. Therefore. 20 . gap finding and filling ambiguities occur when a moved constituent has to be returned to its pre-transformational starting point and there is more than one place that it might go: Those are the boys that the police debated _ about fighting _. Taking the first gap gives the meaning that the police debated with the boys on the topic of fighting. It must be emphasised that rather than including sentences with lexically ambiguous words or phrases. Dressed in white robes. Particle detection is necessary to formulate correct questions to sentences like: Ross looked up the number. Ross is ideal to please. scores of 2. hardly anyone would have a problem to accept the sentence: The police will shoot terrorists with rifles. Close (1989. 95) invites students to expand each dependent clause in two different ways: “I ran over a dog crossing the square. Ross is certain to please. However. viz. The Prepositional Phrase can also be attached to an Adjectival Phrase leading to two interpretations: He seemed nice to her. Knowledge from several different sources is used. a score of 2 was given. As has been illustrated there are many different kinds of structural ambiguity. where the task involved judgments for the most probable interpretation of ambiguous sentences out of context. similarly to synonymity.. then they will also differ in semantic structure. we thought the visitors looked like priests in some strange ceremony. Sometimes it is problematic to distinguish a Present Participle from an Adjective in an isolated sentence like: They are cooking apples. 1 and 0 were given according to the following system. a sentence containing it can be structurally ambiguous: The Japanese push bottles up the Chinese. for the purposes of the study. a score of 2 was obtained. The term that is used for such a type is the interaction between categorial and structural ambiguity. Finally. the participants of the author’s research had the more demanding task to creatively think of possible interpretations. both clauses may contain places for the attachment of the Prepositional Phrase or the Adverb Phrase: Nadia knew that Ross fried the chicken with garlic.” In other words. Analytical ambiguities are also quite common and they occur when the nature of the constituent is itself in doubt: The tourists objected to the guide that they couldn’t hear. unambiguous. syntactic sources of ambiguity have been targeted. To be ambiguous. Thus the maximum score is 48. The administration of the task required 30 minutes. the second gives the police debated among themselves about fighting the boys. However in the sentence: The tourists signalled to the guide that they couldn’t hear. the judgment was worth a score of 1. the writer selected 24 sentences that had to be analysed from the aspect of possible syntactic ambiguity. if two sentences differ in syntactic structure. to distinguish between a Present Participle and a Noun: We discussed running. however.

(1985) dealing with the scope of the negation claims that it normally extends from the negative item itself to the end of the clause.008.13 7. In most cases the identification of the scope is not enough. (Chi-Square = 13. and the identification of the focus of negation is also needed. corresponds to the interaction between categorial and structural ambiguity according to Hirst (1992). Judgments of decontextualised sentences are particularly difficult for NNS. The purpose of the following analyses is to identify the degree of similarity or difference between the groups of NNS and NS in detecting the ambiguity of decontextualised sentences. In the absence of context. Sig. for example. Coppieters. NNS need to be familiar with the conventional meaning or norm (cf. with df = 82. The Independent Samples Test revealed that an F value of 0. Pearson Chi-square tests. The statistical programme was used to perform the following procedures: i/ Descriptive data analysis. The table below illustrates the performance of NNS and NS in the AJT. but one-fourth of the NNS could not discover the ambiguity. as in We did not inform you because we doubted your loyalty. v/ Analysis of correlations between different linguistic categories. 1987). Quirk et al.10 STANDARD DEVIATION 9. ii/ Cross tabulations. Ship sails today. Knowledge of the conventional meaning attached to linguistic forms is given for native speakers but not necessarily so for non-native speakers.160 and p<0. 2) items where NNS’ judgments earned higher scores than the ones made by NS.Explanation wrong Yes SCORE 2 0 2 1 1 0 Table 1. based on the figures for Std.. This sentence was correctly judged to be ambiguous by 15 NNS (24%) and 14 NS (67%).05) have been found only in three cases. because the presence of context enables the respondent to interpret the meaning of a sentence.35 34.05 level. let alone for people who have never been to the target country. whatever their position. The next step is to investigate: 1) items on which the performance of the two groups of teachers varies significantly when rewording the sentences they judge to have different interpretations. even if he or she is not aware of the way the grammatical forms contribute to a specific meaning. do not belong to the scope of clause negation. The differences between NNS and NS on the AJT are expressed by a t value of 2.690 would require to test for equality of means since equal variances cannot be assumed. the null hypothesis with regard to the test should be rejected given that the two groups of teachers demonstrate a statistically significant difference as far as their overall judgments on the AJT are concerned at p<0. Deviation.Explanation missing Yes . was found 21 .. 1) Statistically significant differences (p< 0. This may be problematic when the sentence is presented in writing. p<0.579. (2tailed) p<0. iii/ Analysis of variance to establish levels of significance between different groups. N NNS NS 63 21 MEAN 28.Explanation correct Yes . Breakdown of Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for NNS and NS The results show that NNS have lower means and appear to be more heterogeneous than NS. A syntactic ambiguity may involve functional alternation in one or more items. Disjuncts and conjuncts.KEY Unambiguous –Yes Unambiguous –Yes Ambiguous – Yes Ambiguous – Yes Ambiguous – Yes Ambiguous – No PARTICIPANT’S RESPONSE Yes No Yes .001). The sentence: I’ll let you know whether I’ll need you here when the doctor arrives. iv/ Independent Samples t-Tests and ANOVA to test the effect of different subject-related variables on NNS’ and NS ’ performance in the AJT.86 MEAN SCORES AS % OF MAXIMUM 59 71 Table 2. Scoring System for the Ambiguity Judgment Task The quantitative data collected from the AJT to test similarities and differences between the two teacher groups was processed and analysed by means of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software programme. but it need not include an endplaced adverbial.490. and there is no indication where a special or contrastive nuclear stress would fall. The results and statistical analyses are presented below. One of them. Consequently.

p<0. which may result from the effect of L1 in the case of NNS. since NNS failed to interpret the sentence differently. the judgments of NNS and NS do not vary significantly. [1b] It is interesting…that native English speakers confronted by sentence [1] are likely to agree that they see little or no difference in meaning between [1] and either of [1a-b]. The reason for this statement is that in a Synonymity Judgement Task the semantic component enjoys privilege. determined partially by its complexity but also influenced by the lexical content of the sentence.962. 1269) 37 NNS (59%) and 7 NS (33%) detected ambiguity in the case of this item. (1985) under the heading ‘Postmodification by nonfinite clauses’.ambiguous by 41 NNS (65%) and 20 NS (95%). where a significant difference was found between the performances of the two groups. Discussion on the Ambiguity Judgment Task When opting for the use of this type of task in an attempt to discover similarities and differences between the grammatical competence of NNS and NS based on their metalinguistic performance. Chi-Square = 4. the writer was motivated by testing the principle of compositionality as treated in O’Grady et al. The ambiguity derives from the same grammatical phenomenon as in I’ll let you know whether I’ll need you here when the doctor arrives. On items representing structural ambiguity based on constituent structure classification. Therefore. which appears inexplicable in light of NNS’ superiority on: I know he’s cheating and I can’t do anything about it.. I noticed a man hidden behind the bushes. Fuzzy relationships in postmodification are represented: a man hidden behind the bushes. representing the same grammatical property. can be given different interpretations according to Quirk et al.. the differences. The other item where NNS gained higher scores than NS is: I know he’s cheating and I can’t do anything about it. NNS have been found more successful than NS on two items in this task. I noticed a man hidden behind the bushes. The reduced explicitness in the nonfinite clauses allows us to neutralize the distinction between NP postmodification and certain other types of construction. The data shown in Table 2. is unexpected. 181) Context effects due to structural similarity or dissimilarity can be derived as well. there is no statistic indication that the two groups of teachers vary significantly. has been recognised to be ambiguous by more NNS than NS. can be due to the complexities of negation. resulting in a difference. 1985. p< 0. Schütze (1996) states: ”Different readings of a structurally ambiguous sentence might be found on different occasions because the time weights associated with the relevant rules can change. which is a surprising finding. Postmodification of the noun phrase is possible with all three of the nonfinite clause types. The fact that one-fourth of NNS failed to detect ambiguity in We did not inform you because we doubted your loyalty. the fact that 32 NNS (51%) compared to 9 NS (43%) were able to detect ambiguity in this item. In light of this. Since the presentation of structural ambiguity is one aspect in sentence interpretation that has relevance for syntactic structure. [1] “I noticed { a man who was hidden behind the bushes. the so-called attachment problem relying on Hirst (1992).084. Each parsing rule takes a certain amount of time to execute. the sentence can have different interpretations: i/ Main clause + 2 dependent clauses.027 and ChiSquare=7.” (Quirk et al. whereas the syntactic component can be seen as a major influential factor in a Grammaticality Judgement Task. this task type had to be included.e. The reason for including a linguistic categorisation of the sentences in this task was to test whether the judgments of NNS and NS vary depending on the type of structural ambiguity. because in spite of a pattern of superiority for NS. was not detected by roughly one-third of NNS. i.. (1997). According to this principle sentence meaning is determined not only by the meaning of its components but also by the arrangement of the components in syntactic structure. seem to contradict the expectations.215. though the tendency towards native speaker teachers’ better performance is 22 .” (Schütze 1996.. Depending on where we draw the boundary for the main clause. The structural ambiguity in I’ll let you know whether I’ll need you here when the doctor arrives. it was hypothesised that the greatest difference between NNS and NS would be found in the AJT. Statistically significant difference was found for only one type. The judgment of only three items has resulted in statistically significant differences between NNS and NS. 2) In two cases NNS were found to be more successful than NS. [1a] that a man was hidden behind the bushes.. ii/ Main clause + 1 dependent clause. Knowledge from several different sources is used. distributional classification. especially those regarding the focus of negation.

the relatively small sample sizes. i. it might be stated that the paper is concerned with one of the classic problems in linguistic theory. In order to characterise one’s linguistic competence. this method needs to be pursued. The problems associated with research into the relationship between grammatical competence and metalinguistic performance are partly attributable to a confusion in definitions and terms that have been widely used without scientifically elaborating concepts. so far a relatively neglected way of developing language learners’ and prospective language teachers’ metalinguistic competence: the use of metalinguistic tasks. and. Nevertheless. if possible. it may support the validity of the test items. On the one hand. the respondents were able to accept ambiguous sentences as unambiguous because meaning had priority in the decision making process. and they must be familiar with the grammatical terminology required. pragmatic. NNS must have dealt with the grammatical phenomena targeted in this task during their years at college or university. Crystal. and the relatively narrow angle of the investigation of teachers’ grammatical competence that focussed on some aspects of metalinguistic performance rather than real language use or production. which derives from the difficulty in drawing a clear boundary between grammar and semantics. the writer has found some important guidelines. may be indicative of the interrelatedness of the categorisations. when respondents seemed to ignore the fact that the interpretation they attribute to a sentence is semantically impossible but in line with the researcher’s instructions. This problem has very clearly manifested itself in the analysis of non-native speaker and native speaker teachers’ judgments on issues concerned with ambiguity presented in isolated English sentences. The rationale underlying such investigation is supported by its potential to identify another. When attempting to describe the linguistic knowledge of the native speakers of a language. sentences are structurally well-formed. the trends that take shape are worth further investigation. there have been cases in the empirical data that undoubtedly indicate the lack of the influence of the erroneous syntactic structure on the acceptance of a particular sentence. relying on both kinds of data probably gives more reliable information. Recognising the need to identify the relevant features from a linguistic and a methodological point of view for the purpose of such an investigation. grammatical. linguists take into consideration either performance data – whether elicited or not – or judgmental data. to improve that segment of the world. there is little need to continue further research. judgmental data have not been obtained regularly. Under the conditions of the author’s investigation. (1976) claim that the elicitation of intuitional data enables researchers to view language learners’ knowledge of the target language from a new perspective. by means of the acquired knowledge. Even if the limitations of this quantitative research have to be acknowledged.e. neither NS nor NNS did so.apparent. in this case syntactic clues. Although the participants in the study are not experts in linguistics. At the same time. consequently. The complexity of sentence meaning is the result of a combination of prosodic. the data also contain contrary examples. Schachter et al. in spite of the examples given with the judgment task. skills. In the current study the research centres on whether NNS’ knowledge. In case they are found to be similar. Approaching the study from another theoretical point of view. social and propositional meanings (cf. the more nativelike non-native speaker teachers’ performance.01 level. In other words. in spite of the researcher’s instructions to concentrate on structural properties. the empirical results do not seem to support the hypothesis that NNS’ and NS’ judgments on different metalinguistic tasks do not vary significantly. competencies and strategies required by a metalinguistic task are similar to or different from those of native speaker teachers. It is probably worth commenting that although teachers of English were asked to provide metalinguistic explanations for items they found to be ambiguous. provided the methodological guidelines are strictly followed. the 23 . which require explication. researching the possibilities for bridging the gap seems to be inevitable. and partly to the weaknesses of the research instruments as far as their reliability and validity are concerned. On the other hand. Synopsis The aim of any research is to know more about a target area. Since the methodology used in second language acquisition research has mirrored the techniques and procedures used in first language acquisition for a long time. Should the differences between the two groups of teachers outnumber the similarities. viz. there is no guarantee that the participants are able to disregard other influential aspects. Such a finding suggests that the more context. Borg (1999) reports similar findings based on a study conducted to investigate teachers’ use of grammatical terminology in the L2 classroom. the convenient selection of the participants. 1987). The finding that correlations between total ambiguity judgment and levels of abstraction are all significant at the 0. In vain has the writer limited the focus of analysis on grammatical and semantic levels.

one day. since focus is on meaning Limited demands on knowledge and control. it should be noted that the differences between the two groups of teachers might be due to other reasons.g. active-topassive) in L2 learning Cloze task Solution of sentence-level anagrams. possible sentence structures. ambiguity judgments included. It is very challenging trying to establish the above-mentioned boundary. also control in the form of coordination of meaning and structure Substantial analyzed knowledge of possible grammatical structures and functional roles of sentence elements. as task requires ignoring meaning while performing substitutions that do not change sentence structure High control. simple paraphrase Repetition of grammatical sentences Repetition of deviant sentences Anomalous word substitution Part-of-speech identification. The first conclusion that can be drawn based on the findings is as follows: the judgments of NNS and NS vary on different metalinguistic tasks.investigation of syntactic and semantic properties of sentences in a systematic and objective way might. there are increased demands on the control dimension Analyzed knowledge. In this respect. analyzed knowledge of deviant grammatical feature is also tapped Very high control For the first part of the task. and possible sentence-level meanings Table 3. meaning is largely unaltered while structure is changed Some analyzed knowledge. Relying on Bialystok and Ryan (1985). for the second part. as meaning is not highly salient. the discussion on the main dimension of the study. the empirical investigation has brought to surface results that need to be explained. rearranging randomly-ordered words to make a meaningful sentence DEMANDS ON CONTROL/KNOWLEDGE Moderate analyzed knowledge Moderate-to-high analyzed knowledge High analyzed knowledge Very high analyzed knowledge Highly analyzed knowledge. the writer declares that these tasks differ from the point of view of the amount of analysable knowledge and the extent of cognitive control required by them. no matter how fuzzy it turns out to be. i. not yet identified. since focus is on meaning More control than for grammatical sentences is needed to prevent normalization (rendering in grammatical form). moderate degree of control to coordinate word forms and meanings. According to the null hypothesis of the research NNS and NS may not vary significantly in their metalinguistic performance because the metalinguistic knowledge and awareness they acquired during their studies and years of teaching experience. more cognitive control than most grammaticality judgments. lead researchers with more sophisticated research instruments to an understanding of the role that each component plays in the final assessment of sentences. i. high control High demands on control. attention to structure. since analysis of structure involves ignoring initial reading of sentence and subsequent analysis Low cognitive control and low analyzed knowledge. Discussion on the Research Questions First. TASKS Judgment of acceptability Location of deviant feature of sentence Correction of deviant sentence Explanation Proofreading of unfamiliar text Proofreading of one’s own text Judgment of ambiguity. paraphrase of deepstructure and surface-structure ambiguity Judgment of synonymity. Metalinguistic Tasks and their Demands on Control and Knowledge 24 . identifying potential similarities and differences between NNS’ and NS’ metalinguistic behaviour is provided. as meaning is quite salient. cannot have prepared them to arrive at dramatically different judgments.. there is relatively little demand on control Highly analyzed knowledge.e.e. high demands on analyzed knowledge. then substitution Pattern practice drill in L2 instruction Transformational exercises (e.. However.

“Metacognition and Second Language Acquisition”. For NNS grammatical correctness and prescriptive rules seem to influence judgments. Conclusion What this investigation has clearly revealed is that NNS and NS rely on several factors when detecting syntactic ambiguity. Ellen. “Entailment and the Meaning of Structures. Dabrowska (1997) also acknowledges that educated native speakers more easily cope with correctly judging multiply embedded sentences than less educated speakers of the language. including linguistic behaviour. and degrees of grammaticality and ambiguity instead of trying to decide on linguistic features and grammatical phenomena on a right or wrong basis. and Human Performance. it seems that teachers do not behave significantly differently where they would logically be expected to. while for NS meaning is the primary factor in the judgment making process. 1968. From a pedagogical point of view. 58-59) Accepting the claim that the differences are determined by the two factors mentioned above. Ellen. Bialystok. Amsterdam. David. It would stand to reason to expect that NS outperform NNS with an increasing degree of knowledge and control required by the tasks. 207-252. Birdsong.(Birdsong 1989. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag. the task. One only needs to remember the observation made by Schachter and Yip (1990) that in both native and non-native judgments the ease or difficulty of parsing because of the simple or complex structure of a sentence influences judgments. Schütze 1996). might encourage NNS to be more tolerant when attending to their students’ linguistic performance. Metalinguistic Performance and Interlinguistic Competence. if willing and able to adopt such an approach. and Bouchard E. The fact that even educated native speakers differ in their judgments. Decisions regarding language should be seen on a scale rather than on a dichotomous basis of right or wrong. It is encouraging because perhaps it is reasonable to conclude that the kind of reflective thinking that determines cognitive control can develop or be developed in non-native speakers to a level which is similar to that of a native speaker. Orlando: Academic Press. might obscure the writer’s optimism. The extent to which structural complexity of certain grammatical phenomena influences judgments seems relatively easy to accept. might contribute to enhancing their students’ language proficiency by presenting a variety of linguistic possibilities. G. The results of the study in question suggest that since normal native speakers perform differently on a task that expects them to process “highly syntacticised” written texts. NNS also need to be more open and flexible with regard to interlanguage performance. and Gary Waller. and thus extending the hitherto rigidly established limits that are the logical outcome of respecting grammatical rules excessively. This recognition may have significant implications. 1985. it seems adamant that prospective teachers of English and other foreign languages become aware of the notion of scalar judgments. edited by Donna-Lynn Forrest-Pressley. One of the findings of this empirical investigation that the least difference was found on the AJT. especially for non-native speaker language educators who. Dwight.” In Metacognition. the ability to do so is unlikely to be universal but is acquired in the course of formal education. at the AILA World Congress. which according to Bialystok and Ryan (1985) requires the most cognitive control may be encouraging. 1989. Ryan. since they assist with bringing the focus of attention to the form. It was found that less educated speakers rely more on non-linguistic strategies in sentence interpretation than on syntactic features. “Towards a Definition of Metalinguistic. August 8-14.” Glossa 2 (2): 119-127. 25 . 1993. Cognition. The claim that the control strategies are regarded to be independent of language (cf. Since one of the basic aims of language education is to enable students to behave more like native speakers of the language. The grammaticality judgment test by Dabrowska (1997) was designed so as to control for the effects of factors like lapses of attention or memory limitations. References Bialystok. The recognition and acceptance of variability as an inevitable and natural concomitant of human behaviour.” Paper presented in the symposium. MacKinnon. Bolinger. makes one recognise the importance of accepting the concept of scalability in metalinguistic judgments. “A Metacognitive Framework for the Development of First and Second Language Skills.

Michael Dobrovolsky. 1999. 1995. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1976. Schachter. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carson T. McArthur.43. “The Use of Grammatical Terminology in the Second Language Classroom: A Qualitative Study of Teachers’ Practices and Cognitions. 1997. Randolph. Schütze. 2000. and Mats Rooth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1978. Tom. “Competence Differences between Native and Near-native Speakers. Sidney Greenbaum. Schachter. Alan D. Simon. “Learner Intuitions of Grammaticality. and William Levelt. 1989. R. “The LAD Goes to School: A Cautionary Tale for Nativists. Coppieters. Dabrowska. Donald.” Applied Linguistics 20 (1): 95-126. Contemporary Linguistics. New York: Cambridge University Press. van Kleeck. 1985. Geoffrey Leech. Radford.” Language Learning 26 (1): 67-76. London and New York: Longman. 1997. London and New York: Longman. Anne. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jacquelyn. 1992. Pinkal. Andrew. Robert Jarvella. Logic and Lexicon. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language.” In The Child's Conception of Language. 17. edited by Anne Sinclair. 1987. Quirk. “Structural Ambiguity and Lexical Relations. O’Grady. Meaning in Language. Hirst. 1990. 1996.” Linguistics 35: 735-766. A. London: Longman. Manfred. David. 1987. “The Emergence of Linguistic Awareness: A Cognitive Framework. The Empirical Base of Linguistics.” Merrill Palmer Quarterly 28 (2): 237-265. Transformational Grammar: A First Course. 1999. London: The University of Chicago Press. Semantic Interpretation and the Resolution of Ambiguity. and Virginia Yip. Jacquelyn. A University Grammar of English: Workbook. New York: Springer verlag. Close. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. 1996. Eve Vivienne. Cruse. ed. Adele Tyson. and Francis Katamba. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Grammaticality Judgments: Why does Anyone Object to Subject Extraction?” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12: 379-392. and Jan Svartvik. Clark. Dordrect. 26 . Crystal. Ewa. An Introduction. Graeme. and Frank Diffley. “Awareness of Language: Some Evidence from What Children Say and Do. Chicago. Hindle.” Computational Linguistics 19 (1): 103-120.Borg. 1993. René.” Language 63 (3): 544 -573. William. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. 1982.

e. without ambiguity. the number of meanings of such "ambiguous lexical sequences or strings" depends on the logical-semantic and syntactic combinability of the particular semantic contents of the homonymous lexemes and/or the polysemy of the lexemes. however. Ambiguity − mostly lexical or syntactic − as a textual phenomenon can often be found in documents such as forms. primarily caused not by syntactic but by lexical-semantic reasons. etc. as well as their high polysemy. The statement is. there is always the risk of misinterpretation. are not homonymous in Slovak and by far not as highly polysemantic as in English. as well as on the particular communicative situation and/or intention. including even loss of business (cf. using it as a legitimate communicative strategy. when the context fails to give a clue. 3).Lexical Ambiguity as a Linguistic and Lexicographical Phenomenon in English.. As indicated for instance in the Encyclopaedia of Rhetoric (2001." (Crystal 1987. insurance policies. it should be pointed out that the basis of the ambiguity of the sentence They passed the port at midnight is.). O polnoci roznášali/podávali portské (víno). "numerous specific persuasive strategies lean particularly heavily on ambiguity as a resource". This can have very adverse results. 377). English. are misunderstood or misinterpreted. with considerable cross-linguistic differences. and each language in particular. the reduction or loss of unstressed syllables in Middle English. the number of their lexias. Among the early ones in England was Lindley Murray. extensive borrowing. 2. which due also to their complexity are then not filled in correctly.). not to speak of ambiguity deliberately and often profitably used for commercial. Of course. disambiguation has to take place before translation. Its ambiguity is formed by the systemic lexical coexistence of several homonymous forms of both port and passed. many a pun and a lot of linguistic fun − not only in English − would be lost. loss of categorial affixes.e. contracts. in contrast to Slovak. often occurs in combination with lexical ambiguity (cf. The above sentence is an example documenting that an important role is played by the ambiguity systemically inherent in some lexical units of language in general. with one of the possible interpretations selected – in the better case a clue is given by the linguistic and/or situational context. well grounded. and he classifies the above as "grammatical ambiguity" within "ambiguous strings" (1985. etc. 26).") as well as other types of ambiguity (graphical. For comparison let us state that the corresponding equivalents of the above English homonymous port. However. political or other reasons. for lexical reasons the Slovak translation of the above sentence cannot be or become adequately ambiguous. has many more homonyms as well as a more extensive polysemy. prístav and portské (víno). Crystal 1996. the Chomskyan "Flying planes can be dangerous. numerous manuals of style advise: "minimize ambiguity and maximize clarity". in our opinion. While we fully acknowledge the existence of syntactic ambiguity (cf.") which. i. The need to avoid ambiguity has been stated by many a linguist. 397). Introduction An already classical example of linguistic ambiguity in English is given by Lyons in his Semantics: They passed the port at midnight. Consequently.e. i. situational. of course. As a result of linguistic-historical factors (i. with Comparisons to Slovak Ada Böhmerová 1. He states that the sentence has at least two interpretations depending on whether the form port is taken to mean "harbour" or a kind of "fortified wine". who in his 1804 English Grammar strongly recommended: "Keep clear of double meaning or ambiguity. though it depends on the liver. 1. The above two interpretations of the sentence can be translated as follows: Table 1: Disambiguating in translation English Slovak They passed the port at midnight. Similarly. Hence. O polnoci prešli okolo prístavu. "Life is worth living. 27 . Already in classical Greece many scholars held the opinion that artful usage of ambiguity is commensurate with the grandeur of thought. On the contrary. etc.

etc. It can be added that on the other hand only words in artificial "ideal" languages (starting with Volapük created in 1880. as reference to them could give rise to ambiguities" (cf. Onomatological (structural) ambiguity 2. Enantiosemy B. Lyons 1985. metonymy. as both are interconnected. Lexical cross-linguistic non-parallelism (asymmetry) 3. 3.Nevertheless. Another reason can be seen in the fact that as lexical units are motivated and thus related to a particular motivating semantic spectrum. As a result. occurs in utterances more generally. 38). Ambiguity due to synchronical motivational non-transparency 4. Polysemy 3. through Esperanto in 1887. puzzles and paradoxes. ambiguity is related to rhetoric as both a property of human experience and a quality of symbols in general". but even potentially or actually ambiguous. they can give rise to polysemy or (within a split of polysemy) to homonymy. let us in this context make a note concerning lexico-grammatical synsemantic means. The need to avoid ambiguity has. Analysis From the vast possibilities of language-inherent ambiguity in English we would like to present. thus permitting double meanings that ‘drive both ways’. Bázlik and Ambrus 2008. ambiguity. one of the reasons being that the needs to express notions and denote phenomena are much more varied and numerous than the number of words. A particular linguistic sign may then be not only polysemantic. most of which go unnoticed by most speakers". As stated by Scott (2006. As a result. any of the semes of this spectrum can be potentially foregrounded within shifts of meaning (metaphor. ambiguity. whether deliberate or not. as shown in Table 1: Table 1: Types of Lexical Ambiguity A. Onomatological (structural) non-parallelism 2. Cross-linguistic ambiguity (occurring between or among languages) 1. analyse and discuss some of our findings concerning the particular subtypes. which is a common phenomenon in language (cf. 26). The statement about this relative paradox is supported by Dolník who says that if we acknowledge the principle of antropomorphism. the low frequency of pronouns in legal documents is attributed to "the need for precision in naming the persons and things spoken about. It is evident from the findings that the subtypes of ambiguity often co-occur in the lexemes of a particular language and cross-linguistically enter into rather complex relationships. resulted in certain textual practices. For example. we shall devote our attention to language-inherent lexical ambiguity (Type A) in English and present observations concerning their further specification. "ambiguity is the state of simultaneously admitting plausible interpretations or explanations. Homonymy 4. Initially. entailing more than one message. the analysis of which exceeds the scope of this paper. 2. as polysemy and homonymy do not in principle function in them. Language-inherent ambiguity (occurring in a particular language) 1. "ordinary speech is a rich source of vagueness. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989). Ambiguity resulting from differing objective reality As the classification entails a wide range of linguistic phenomena and their relationships. language as a product of human beings is marked by the rational-irrational character of those who create it (2007. up to Glosa in 1981 and Uropi in 1986) can be non-ambiguous. Typology of Lexical Ambiguity As a partial representation of the numerous types of lexical ambiguity. 28 . we present the findings in their interrelatedness and where relevant we also consider the contrastive English-Slovak perspective. 553). It is generally acknowledged that words in natural languages develop polysemy. Even though in this paper we are primarily dealing with the ambiguity of autosemantic lexemes. 59). the following basic classification of its occurrences found can be suggested. for instance in legal English.).

e. complete" (from 1796). adj. systemically (and textually only potentially) it entails two semantic contents of opposing polarity (see below). if restive occurs in a text in its "wrong" non-standard usage to mean the same as restless. perfektný. As a result. etc. vzdorovitý. Onomatologically ambiguous. However. also Crystal 1996. Peprník 1992. drahocenný. majúci nevyčísliteľnú hodnotu 2. the Slovak equivalents of great as presented in Table 2 in the following collocations include. is also the English derivative unqualified. allowing for differing semantic realization. splendid. with the meaning "something that will burn".: Table 2: English great and some of its Slovak translation equivalents 29 .2 Polysemy. netrpezlivý.e. as the morph -wise is onomatologically bi-functional. it also developed the meaning "restless". In Slovak. but in this case due to the polysemy of the base. Well known is also the English enantiosemically ambiguous lexeme priceless. 93).which was adopted into English later. As a cross-linguistic issue. balky". From among the sub-types of ambiguity due to polysemy we shall present the case of non-specific content and a wide semantic range of lexical units.: 1. e. restive gets translated according to its original onomatologically systemic and standard meaning. this lexis being historically primary. For example. stubborn. coexistence of several lexias in a lexeme. The infrequent occurrence of onomatological ambiguity in compounds can be exemplified by streetwise (cf. only its first meaning is transparent and thus predictable for Slovaks and there sometimes occur mistakes in translating it. A. zanovitý. nesústredený. This was the case of some Slovak translations of legal documents where unqualified assent was wrongly translated as nekvalifikovaný or nekompetentný súhlas instead of its correct latter meaning bezvýhradný/úplný/jednoznačný súhlas. and magnificent. and the lexis "resisting burning" with the Latin-based negative prefix in. hence it is also enantiosemic. word-formative ambiguity where one of the morphs in a polymorphic lexical unit is word-formatively polyfunctional (usually bifunctional). The Slovak translations of these meanings are lexically and semantically differentiated. translatable into Slovak as 1.g. no parallel ambiguity could exist also due to the fact that there is no negative suffix. In the famous case of inflammable (cf. without reservations. Cross-linguistically the selection of the proper equivalent can cause problems. slg. bezsenný. Systemically. is a natural result of semantic derivation and transpositional motivation (cf. its Slovak equivalents are nepokojný. of which it originally was and in substandard English still is an antonym. správajúci sa opatrne na ceste. namely in the case with non-specific boundaries of lexias. In Slovak the equivalents are horľavý and nehorľavý respectively. 128) this is due to the homonymy of the inchoative causative prefix in-. The original meaning of the English restive has its Slovak equivalents in tvrdohlavý. By indispensable disambiguation its meanings are differentiated and explicitly expressed by analytical descriptions of the given notions. 26) in which one morphological structure entails two onomatological and semantic structures: one giving rise to an adjective and the other one to an adverb. i. úžasný.A. (ešte) neopatrený cenovkou 3. i. adv. as the context sometimes does not give any unanimous clue for the selection of the appropriate equivalent. "important" or "remarkable". with full differentiation of semantic polarity. This can be exemplified by the positive qualifiers great. agilný. pokiaľ ide o ulice. which is the case of restive. "famous". not fit" (from 1667) but also "not modified or restricted. it became enantiosemic and a partial synonym to its antonym. due to its onomatological structure. In English we have found onomatological ambiguity mostly in derivatives. nepredajný. Their basic meanings are clear. Dolník 1990. Due to the homonymy of the affix. The above cross-linguistic lexical difference testifies to the rather widespread tendency towards lexical condensation in English that word-formatively often cannot be paralleled by the Slovak equivalents. In Slovak the translation equivalents are neither monolexical nor ambiguous.g.g. the lexeme inflammable is enantiosemic. but within their close relatedness the specific semes that they entail are extremely varied. absolute. Nevertheless. potentially with rather serious consequences. though it is evident that other lexias could potentially apply to it too. spurný and priečny. It can mean "not qualified. neoceniteľný. If the English context does not give a clue for the meaning used.1 Onomatological ambiguity could be defined as structural. e. Onomatological ambiguity can arise even as a result of wrong language-inherent usage.e. neurčený na predaj 4. the lexias of which can but do not have to depend on their collocability with a particular head noun. in Random House Dictionary the sentence: "Humour" was a great word with the old physiologists is given as an example for the meaning "much in use or favour". 2. initially through wrong usage. Its original and onomatologically systemic meaning was "refusing to move.

the noun rout is homonymous with the corresponding verb. A. 2.g. ohavný. Böhmerová 2005. odd. essential. is a rather specific case of lexical ambiguity. 3. It can be defined as the coexistence of lexias of opposite polarity in one polysemantic lexeme. odstrašujúci. We agree with Dunbar who states that linguistic and logical criteria can "adequately capture the distinction between polysemy (ambiguity) and vagueness providing that their use is restricted to denotational rather than referential phenomena" (Dunbar 2001). Lexically and semantically it manifests direct relatedness to matter. meaning: 1. being at the same time semantically non-parallel internationalisms (cf. lot. Endless numbers of other English lexemes are characterized by high and considerably diffuse polysemy and also by homonymy. the English adjective material. within the process of disambiguation often the specification of the distinguishing seme(s) for selecting the appropriate text-relevant equivalent has to take place. In this context it should be pointed out that although theoretically lexical vagueness (a low degree of explicitness) does not necessarily entail lexical ambiguity. 160).3 Homonymy in English often results from or coexists with high and/or diffuse polysemy. pustý. though in the latter case there are certainly other "stumbling blocks" to be overcome by the skills of the translator. in English it also has the meaning "important. relevant". hrozivý. A basic type is the so-called "classical polysemy" or "polycentric categorization" for which Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk gives the example chest. enantiosemy is interesting as a linguistic anomaly and paradox. In this sense the lexical and semantic non-transparence of the polysemy of an otherwise commonly known lexical unit can result in unduly ignoring some of its less predictable and usually also much less frequent meanings.g.g. to poke" and of the other one "to bellow". "pertaining to matter". Though relatively infrequent in English. 2006). veľká starostlivosť. autoantonymy. In addition. thus representing the highest degree of meaning difference. in English also referred to as antilogy. "disorderly crowd". law: "disturbance of public peace by three or more persons". due to which the lexical-semantic systemic relations can become extremely complex and the translation "a hard nut to crack" if context does not sufficiently assist in resolving the ambiguity. veľký čitateľ. i. With the Slovak formally analogous materiálny they constitute partial faux amis. e. or enantiodromy. veľký zážitok. fashionable party (and several other possible meanings). However. they are certainly close. A. "disorderly retreat". in many cases great can be translated simply as the general quantifier veľký (e. with varied types of the semantic relationships among their lexias within each lexeme. Due to the extensive polysemy and relatively frequent homonymy in English the translation of such lexemes into Slovak is much more demanding than vice versa. as 30 . and evidently even less frequent in Slovak and probably many other languages. As a consequence. disambiguation is practically impossible. the case of the noun rout. even advanced Slovak users of English might not be aware that the word could also mean odporný.. due to lexical. staple. 4 Enantiosemy. collocability. without textual or situational context. 6. the meanings of which do not overlap but have conceptual relationship (2007. 5. live. e. In some cases a lexical unit can entail meanings which are not predictable with regard to its basic or most frequent meaning and which cross-linguistically can cause problems. This is. 4. hrôzostrašný. its negatively evaluating adjectival meanings are not transparently present in its form. etc. to some extent overlapping concepts and often coexist in lexical phenomena. "heavy defeat".English great battle great care great celebration great experience great reader great truth great voice great writer Slovak (historicky) významná bitka dôkladná/vynikajúca starostlivosť veľkolepá/fantastická oslava nezabudnuteľný/hlboký/úžasný zážitok náruživý čitateľ nesporná pravda vynikajúci hlas popredný spisovateľ Of course. While its direct de-verbal meaning is evident and has analogously formed Slovak equivalents in the participle zakazujúci and the noun zakázanie/zakazovanie.g. crack. as well as with two etymologically unrelated verbs of which the basic meaning of one is "to root. Such non-predictable polysemy can be exemplified by the word forbidding. However. In such cases. but this is not transparently predictable from the form of the adjective material.. arch.e. semantic and stylistic reasons. This is also the case of e. Nevertheless. "riot".

uvážený. not the derivative. 19). in Ondrejovič 2000. "clever.pointed out by Pisárčiková (1980). W. and the verbs arising from them can combine the semantic content of a process expressing the presence. We can see the reason in the fact that enantiosemy relatively defies scrutiny as it is a phenomenon rather non-predictably scattered in the lexis. F. the English vital. the author of a pioneering article on enantiosemy in Slovak. progressive community means "improving community".g. behead "sťať hlavu". this phenomenon has not yet been systematically studied in languages. even in Slovak it is neither a marginal nor a non-productive phenomenon. bad. which in addition to their earlier semantically negative content also adopted the meaning of positive qualifiers and hence became systemically enantiosemic (cf.in obchádzať "go around. Thus. Similarly. to stroke a) b) c) d) e) a) The founding nouns from which enantiosemic verbs are converted denote material substances. inflammable (see above). both as positive evaluators. Nevertheless. "to neglect. enantiosemy can (albeit rarely) occur in derivatives with the suffix in-. In general. though only in the case of different prefixes. Still. This was e.only the prefix is enantiosemic. i.e. unáhlený. skin. which seems to be a cross-linguistic tendency. such adjectival lexemes can cause problems and lead to errors if the translator is not familiar with their enantiosemy and does not in the particular textual context realize the need to consult detailed lexicographical sources for checking the existence of some other than the commonly known meanings. when praising the German language. bejewel "ovešať šperkami" vs. too. 125. neuvážený. milk. Böhmerová 2009).e. As pointed out also by Ondrejovič (2000. This is in line with such possibilities of usage that. on the contrary. G. d) The attitude of understatement in colloquial style and slang can lead to the shift of the polarity of a semantically negative qualifier to a positive one. of relevance for their actual meaning being the lexical and communicative context. Cross-linguistically. shrewd". for a number of reasons the distribution of enantiosemic lexemes differs with languages. In English it has given rise to the relatively recent awesome with the parallel Slovak úžasný. stone heady. addition. commencement. On the contrary. g. e) The individual enantiosemic lexemes are even more unpredictable than those classified in the above types. to ignore" (cf. It can be found for instance in the case of the verbal prefix o. 130). including enantiosemy.e. the case of bad and crazy in the United States in the 1920s.in prehliadnuť "to check. priceless. hence vital wound means "mortal wound". to survey" vs. b) The enantiosemy of adjectives expressing abstract features can be supposed to be based on the mental and notional coexistence of antonymic concepts. Heady can mean "rashly impetuous". its removal. Hence. "avoid". Böhmerová 1997. on the contrary. i. to bone means "to remove bones from sth" or "to put whalebones or another stiffener into (clothing)".. i. notionally entails also its end. is considered to be undesirable in the linguistic system. etc. Their enantiosemy 31 . the meanings of be. dust. Hence. Such positive qualifiers can arise and become trendy in and symptomatic of a particular period. terribly. rozumný. While the above types of enantiosemy do not have their analogous parallels in Slovak. c) In English. i. though primarily referring to life. or pre. and that "coming across such words means great mental pleasure" (cf. e. priaznivo sa rozvíjajúca komunita/spoločnosť while progressive disease means "worsening disease". visit" vs. or. Hegel points out that it even contains words entailing the opposite meaning. vital be-.e. in some respects it can become a welcome phenomenon in communication. or. prefixal enantiosemy exists in Slovak. progressive. the very fact of the existence of enantiosemy in languages does not mean that their occurrence is cross-linguistically parallel. i.are enantiosemic only systemically. utilization. In the case of be. 12) we suggested a classification of some of its types in English which in a modified version and with examples is presented in Table 3: Table 3: Types of Enantiosemy in English Type verbs converted from nouns adjectives expressing abstract features derivatives by enantiosemic prefixes positivised colloquial negative qualifiers and intensifiers individual words Examples bone.e. Their identification can only be sporadic and far from exhaustive. In one of our earlier studies dealing with enantiosemy (Böhmerová 1997. e. the prefix either meaning "add what is expressed by the base" or "remove what is expressed by the base". 126). smrteľné poranenie. 2007. zhoršujúca sa choroba. of the given substance. not in the same derivative lexeme.g. ambiguity in language. inawesome.

A Grammar of Legal English. Böhmerová. the aim at the preservation of intended ambiguity. Böhmerová. the identification of enantiosemic lexemes in the lexis. or. Miroslav. Ada. However. in translation the main problem is either the disambiguation of such lexemes. Bratislava: Iura Edition.” In: 35 rokov výučby prekladateľstva a tlmočníctva na Slovensku. For instance. Bratislava: Univerzita Komenského. Bratislava: Peter Mačura . As vocabularies of languages are nonisomorphic. “Enantiosemy As a Lexical and Semantic Phenomenon in English. the latter is often impossible for the non-existence of a parallel ambiguous lexeme in the target language. súčasnosť a budúcnosť prekladateľstva atlmočníctva na Slovensku. 2008. as well as extensive polysemy) of a number of other lexemes can appear unexpectedly and consequently even go unnoticed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.e. etc. i. minulosť. Literature and Culture in a Changing Transatlantic World. Crystal. this lexia being a result of a very specific narrowing of meaning. This could. References Bázlik. 15-22. slávnostný záver akademického roka spojený s udeľovaním akademických titulov. 1970-2005. “Medzijazykové lexikálne paralely v jazykovom systéme a v preklade.” In: Slovak Studies in English 1. systemic lexical ambiguity is language-specific. most of its lexical means in languages are still hidden in the vast and complex lexias of languages. While from the theoretical and systemic points of view a parallel across-linguistic occurrence of ambiguity is possible. 2009. Böhmerová. i. but in Cambridge.PEEM. and Patrik Ambrus. Dublin and American English also "ceremony of degree conferment". on the contrary. i. Prešov: Prešovská univerzita. for instance. Though methodologically very demanding. 58-68. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. 1987.” In: Philologica XLVI.. be the case of stroke that systemically has not only the meaning "to hit". “Positivised English Jazz-Age Quantifiers.e. začiatok. the occurrence of enantiosemy (and homonymy. However. 2006. 11-22. Some English lexical units marked by enantiosemy are generally known to advanced non-native users of English. as well as for their lexicographical processing and labelling. Consequently. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language. its actual occurrence is very rare and so in translation mostly other means of compensating for the ambiguity in the source language have to be used. but it does have both systemic and communicative relevance. Ada. waiting for their discovery and systemic linguistic and cross-linguistic analysis. 1997. the formal word commencement means "beginning". “Non-parallel Internationalisms. Crystal. Bratislava: Letra. Zborník Filozofickej fakulty Univerzity Komenského. 2005.” In: Language. Böhmerová. Conclusions Lexical ambiguity is not only a potential or actually semantically present feature of languages in general. literary and communication science. their further theoretical research and lexicographical marking can considerably contribute to teaching. Although linguistic ambiguity has been dealt with since the times of the Stoicist grammarians and has been studied in stylistics. David.develops on the basis of rather non-specifiable or often non-generalizable semantic reasons. 1996. udrieť but also "to caress". learning and translating from English and prevent a number of often grave mistakes or misinterpretations. David.e. Their Developments and Penetration into Some European Vocabularies. Ada.e. pohladiť which at some point can come as a surprise even to quite advanced users of English. . i. 32 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 119-127. Ada.

John. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd. 2nd ed. Prešov. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ondrejovič. Ed. 1990.” In: Frazeologické štúdie V. Slavomír. Slavomír. Dirk Geeraerts. Cognitive Linguistics 12.” In: Lexikálna sémantika a derivatológia. Encyclopaedia of Rhetoric. The Random House Dictionary. Vol. Princípy lingvistickej analýzy vo frazeológii. Ed. Semantics. 125-130.” In: Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics. Filozofická fakulta. 2007. Volume 2. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk. Brown. 2001. Oxford University Press. 11. Juraj. Dana Baláková . 1993. ambiguity and vagueness.Peter Ďurčo. 1980. Jaroslav. Hubert Cuyckens. Peprník. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Pisárčiková. “Princíp iracionality vo frazéme.” In: Jazykovedné štúdie 15. 1985. Dirk and Hubert Cuyckens. 2007.Geeraerts. 1-14. Bratislava: Veda. Ed. New York: Random House. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Vnútroslovná antonymia. S. in Chief K. Ed. 139-169. 1987. Lexikálna sémantika. “Ku kategórii enantiosémie. Dolník. “Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Language. 33 . 2007. 1992. Lexikálna sémantika a derivatológia. Oxford.” In: The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Ružomberok: Katolícka univerzita v Ružomberku. 130. Stuart Berg Flexner. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lyons. Martin Ološtiak. Mária. Ondrejovič. George. Oxford English Dictionary. 2006. Towards a cognitive analysis of polysemy. 2000. in Chief: Thomas O. Second Edition. 213-218. Oxford: Oxford University Press. J. Juraj. Scott. Ružička. Prototypes and Radial Categories. Univerzita Palackého. Eds. Eds. Anglická lexikologie. Olomouc. Dolník. Bratislava: Univerzita Komenského. Ed. 2007. “Polysemy. 58-69. Barbara. Dunbar. Sloane. Ed. 2006. Košice: LG.

as a neutral (re)source. The above-given quotation might refer to the dubious state of mind or activity of the brain flickering between the two equally plausible readings at the same time being unable to establish a single one.diplomacy.: a contract free of ambiguities. A modified and more accurate definition is provided by Pehar1. indefinite. but then. and 3. This characteristic is used irrespective of the source of misunderstanding in communication which may be vagueness. Pehar concludes. And that is in all probability the cause.2 Tondl (2006) provides a similar definition of ambiguity using fringe conditions: “an expression is ambiguous if it is found in such a set of fringe conditions in which there are two different subsets of fringe subsets connected with different interpretation of the term in question”.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. as ‘A is B’ and ‘A is C’ combined. Actually it somehow says both ‘A is B’ and ‘A is C’.diplomacy.PDF http://diplo. pp. but under different angles. an ambiguity of manner. 2.edu/~kbach/ambguity. Definition of the Concept Both philosophers and linguists have been bewildered by the concept of ambiguity trying to provide a precise definition and seeking its sources. doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention: to speak with ambiguity. meaning. indefiniteness. Delimitation of Ambiguity In everyday life a speaker that has been misunderstood is frequently referred to with the attribute ambiguous. 1 2 http://diplo. 2. Therefore. Ambiguity and Contradiction “An ambiguity is not a mere contradiction since it does not say both ‘A is B’ and ‘A is non-B’. it cannot be interpreted as ‘A is C’. or equivocal word. indexicality. the state of being difficult to understand or explain because of involving many different aspects (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). But what is this mysterious thing called “a possibility of a sentence”? I do not know’ (Pehar: 163 – 199). The activity of brain upon encountering ambiguity has been subject to neurological experiments. relativity.sfsu. It is only then that an expression is truly ambiguous”. etc. the word ambiguous is commonly used to cover a number of communicative situations in which the message has not been comprehended (compare also Bach and Pehar)3. eluded any efforts at precise definitions owing to their ambiguous nature (compare with Pehar). under specific focuses of vision/interpretation.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. Thus. the state of having more than one possible meaning 2.PDF 3 Bach. 1. 163 – 199). but also two incompatible and unrelated meanings. can be interpreted as meaning A. Ambiguities. can be interpreted as meaning B. expression. In other words. indistinctness or confusion.Language Ambiguity and Humour Magdaléna Bilá 1. It may be interpreted as ‘A is B’ in one light. an ambiguity is just a possibility of a sentence. Kent: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry http://online. the ambiguities of modern poetry. from which. lexical under-determination and denotational uncertainty. vagueness.reference. in exactly the same light. “Taken as a whole. Thus he regards ambiguities “as pieces of language that 1. obscurity. He claims that “in order to qualify as an ambiguity an expression must generate not only at least two different meanings. we do not regard it as a pure contradiction. 2.com/browse/ambiguity). not a real sentence. Quiroga-Clare views ambiguty both as a blessing and as a curse. an unclear. (http://dictionary. The following dictionary entries can exemplify this statement: 1. cannot be interpreted as A and B simultaneously. a word or statement that can be understood in more than one way 3. but. however. linguists and philosophers of language maintain that ambiguity ought to be differentiated from such phenomena as: contradiction.PDF 34 . both A and B might at separate times spring” (Pehar. eventually.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. uncertainty.html 4 http://diplo.diplomacy.4 In this sense.

Those concepts. 247). the former one being defined as “uncertainty of boundaries of semantic decision making in relation to a certain universe or single areas of this universe” (Tondl.sfsu. Tondl makes a clear dividing line between vagueness and ambiguity.g Nieuwland and Van Berkum (2008) carried out a series of neurocognitive experiments that examined the neural correlates of referential ambiguity. the quantitative characteristic. the 'process/product' ambiguity ('writing') or ´type/token´ reference (everyday terms like. He regards the latter term as a specific case of heteronymy and stresses that “ambiguity differs from vagueness in that it presupposes more then one interpretation of the term” (Tondl. express quantitatively determined change of quality or the emergence of a new quality. Only terms and concepts of a formalized language are not vague. often described as the 'act/object' ('building'). general terms exhibit the highest degree of vagueness and theoretical terms exhibit no or limited vagueness only within a certain conception. there is a kind of ambiguity. at least in the beginning. and old cats are younger than some young people3). high. Tondl (2006. however. Ambiguity and Indexicality Generally known indexical terms (like 'you'. The scientists have also found that whether comprehenders utilize these anaphoric inferences considerably depends on the particular context and the characteristics of the reader. Ambiguity and relativity Relativity can be represented by vague words the meanings of which are dependent on the referent of the noun (heavy people are lighter than non-heavy elephants. p. The latter type is defined as “unclear boundaries of the feature that is maintained in any correct translation of the term in question” (Tondl. some linguists claim that they are actually cases of lexical under-determination. Tondl stresses that there are several types of vagueness as there is not only one source of vagueness (such as the language users. Similarly. the general source being the absence of absolute correspondence between the discreetness of the universe and that of the language in question. 'here' and 'tomorrow') 3 “have unchanging meanings but variable reference” . Ambiguity and Vagueness Vagueness refers to expressions whose meanings are assigned to “blurry regions of a scale and thus 5 allowing for borderline cases” (heavy and old may be given as obvious illustrations) . p.g. 'book' and 'car' applying both to types and to instances (tokens) of those types)3. 2006. e. Thus. He further states that even the interpretation norms supposed to specify the quantitative characteristics may not eliminate vagueness since they only impose some constraints with regard to certain tasks or objectives so that the concept in question may fulfill them. distant). The results of their experiments illustrate that referential ambiguity resolution requires making an inference to reassess the referential candidates. p. is unclear (e. equally possible antecedents. Bach also deals with some philosophical suggestions that pronouns are ambiguous as between their anaphoric and their deictic use. 247). 247).edu/~kbach/ambguity. logical structure of language and the class of signified entities). Tondl points out that proper names and individual characteristics exhibit no or minimal vagueness. Tondl differentiates between denotative and sense vagueness. 2006.e.html 35 . i. 'animal'. Regarding these cases Bach concludes that although some philosophers insist on such cases of ambiguity.251) regards vagueness as a feature of those empirical predicates that have a qualitative character. Kent: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry http://online. They further claim that these inferences only take place when both referential candidates are. however. If the same terms are used in natural language. Ambiguity and Lexical Under-determination Bach deals with philosophical ambiguities under which terms that “do double duty” are understood (e. (So for example. he claims.g. He further states that vagueness can be measured based on the relation between semantic decision making process (language users’ attitude to terms whose meaning they understand) and the language users.neuroscientists have also aimed at establishing the nature of ambiguity from neurological aspects. pp. 2006. 235 . 5 Bach. Regarding the degree of vagueness. it is suggested that a sentence like 'Oedipus loves his mother' has two 'readings'. they are vague.

L. because it can be used to mean either that Oedipus loves his own mother or that Oedipus loves the mother of some contextually specified male)”. L. F. “it is not ambiguous but merely semantically under-determinate”6. 2000: 238. Bach. However.. Ambiguity and Denotational Uncertainty Tondl (2006) connects denotational uncertainty to situations when language users are unable to interpret a term although they can provide a synonym or translate it into another language and states that this situation can occur in natural as well as formalized language (Tondl. can be similarly disputed. eye – I).: Ambiguity and puns. which issues a monthly newsletter.html http://diplo. A power point presentation. F. he holds. P. A. or a set of sentences or a text. bank. referential ambiguity may connect to a word or group of words in which case it is frequently used deliberately as a source of humor: The organization10 enjoys worldwide popularity and it also gives a POTY award to the Punster of the Year. claims that even though an utterance of such a sentence can be understood in either of two ways. A. A. and cross-textual ambiguities (introduced by Pehar) depending on whether they connect to a single word.”9 In addition. In: Nilsen. “A good pun is like a good Steak – a rare medium well done.: Ambiguity and puns.diplomacy. referential. Bach holds that this seems to be an insufficient basis for the claim of ambiguity: “After all. p. established the International Save the Pun Foundation. there is somebody that that person loves or that there is somebody that everybody loves. a financial planner became “Chairman of the Bored. syntactical (also referred to as structural). 2006. She is apparently impressed by his astonishingly good looks and eagerly asks: “Is there 6 7 Bach. P. P. however.g.PDF 8 a word of Hindi origin meaning a learned person. Bach further argues that even claims of structural ambiguity. The Pundit8.” After Crosbie’s death.” 11 Sometimes a word or a longer linguistic form may be understood in either its literal or figurative senses thus resulting in referential ambiguity. In order to qualify as ambiguity. and Nilsen. F. a sentence. P.“it is ambiguous. a Canadian writer and publisher. A. However. L. and presents a list of the “Ten Best Stressed Puns of the Year. or authority. John Crosbie. specifically the claims of scope ambiguity. F.. D. in general. which can be exemplified by a dialogue from Diamonds are forever: In an introductory scene 007 approaches a lady who is supposed to provide the vital information he is seeking. being previously mentioned is just another way of being contextually specified”. D. He provides the following example: 'Everybody loves somebody'. 9 Nilsen. in the case of a pun the meanings of homonymous expressions will be intentionally exploited thus creating humor as can be illustrated in the following example: In 1979. Norman Gilbert. D. Referential Ambiguity This type of ambiguity may connect to a homonym in which case. Kent: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry http://online. 2000: 238. In: Nilsen. 36 . 250)..edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. he said as part of his acceptance speech at the annual April First dinner in Chicago. and Nilsen.. which appears to manifest a scope ambiguity because it can be used to mean either that for each person.7 Lexical Ambiguity This type of ambiguity as a rule connects to a homonym or a polysemous word presented in isolation (e. A power point presentation..edu/~kbach/ambguity. 3. and Nilsen. expert. Types of Ambiguity Authorities agree on the fact that ambiguity can appear at any level of discourse and thus the following types of ambiguities can be distinguished: lexical.sfsu. and Nilsen. The year that author and collector Richard Lederer won. D. 10 the International Save the Pun Foundation 11 Nilsen. it is necessary to identify a level of linguistic description at which the sentence can be assigned two distinct structures (some grammarians hold that is a level of LF). L.. further context will provide additional clues thus disambiguating the homonym.

on the other hand. these ambiguities seem to be unsustainable in a longer context. have possible differences in scope: 12 http://diplo. as has been mentioned above. Syntactical Ambiguity This type of ambiguity is also referred to as grammatical or structural (Bach). The ambiguity disappears if we add.diplomacy. Here a newspaper may refer to a specific newspaper or some newspaper. i. [objected to the guide] [that they couldn’t hear]) (f) Certain function words. but I couldn’t find one. ([old men] and [women].edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. but their direction—what they specify—is multiple. In this case the verb get off is used as a component of the idiom get off one’s chest meaning to tell someone about something that has been worrying you or making you feel guilty for a long time. including not.” Upon uttering it he gets off her bra and starts choking her with it in order to make her give away the information sought. you have to work hard. 2 anaphora is unclear because a personal pronoun can be linked to either of two referring expressions: Jack told it to Ralph and then he told it to Mary. Kleider (2002) further illustrates that syntactical ambiguity may be in the surface structure of a sentence (as words can combine in different possible constructions) or it may relate to the deep structure (one sequence of words may have more than one reading. (Is you the addressee or is this sentence a general platitude?) 4 a noun phrase with every can have distributed reference or collected reference: I’m buying a drink for everybody here. (One drink for all or one drink for each?). Kreidler (2002: 151 – 152) provides a list of other instances of referential ambiguity resulting from the nature of referring expressions since: 1 an indefinite referring expression may be specific or not: I wanted to buy a newspaper. some of them (example 3) can be disambiguated by applying emphasis and therefore. the verb get off acts as a single lexeme used in its literal sense (compare with Kreidler). on the one hand. usually because the rules of sentence construction allow ellipsis. Furthermore. however. any newspaper.PDF 37 . 2006). opening the sentence to several different and incompatible interpretations. ([Mat] and [Gloria or Andrea]. As a matter of fact. there is. 3 the pronoun you is used generically or specifically: If you want to get ahead. I’d like to get something off your chest. but I couldn’t find it or.12 Pehar explains that the difference between the referential and syntactical ambiguity is in the fact that the former one is due to “an intrinsic quality of the parts of a sentence. Sometimes a sentence contains a number of specifications. [300] or [400]) (d) A head with an inner modifier and an outer modifier. [Tibetan history] [teacher]) (e) A complement and modifier or two complements: The tourists objected to the guide that they couldn’t hear. Pehar. in order to make you feel better and as a phrasal verb meaning strip off. undress. syntactical ambiguity is ambiguous due to a relation between the parts of a sentence”.something I can do for you?” to which Bond replies: “Yes. (b) A coordinate head with one modifier: The only people that were interested were old men and women. Nevertheless. which can be disambiguated in speech by appropriate stress placement: A Tibetan history teacher ([Tibetan] [history teacher]. [objected to] [the guide that they couldn’t hear].e. making it ambiguous. prefers to label it as syntactical “because this type of ambiguity actually rests on the vagaries of syntactical relations within a sentence. Examples of surface ambiguity: (a) Constructions containing the coordinators and and or. [Mat and Gloria] or [Andrea]. ([3] or [400]. there is. (c) A head with a coordinate modifier: Three or four hundred fans attended the match. the omission of what is generally understood and what the comprehenders may infer). old [men and women]. they appear to be rather cases of lexical under-determination or vagueness (compare Tondl.

[5 more] [interesting examples] or [5] [more interesting examples] (compare Kreidler. Language fits quite loosely around ‘reality. The ambiguity of the above-given examples is again unsustainable in specific contexts or situations which. Kreidler (2002) also points to negative sentences that may often contain ambiguity. Another treatment of linguistic sign. Pehar illustrates that this kind of ambiguity is best exemplified with so-called “open-ended sentences”.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. 169 – 170). sentences—and the phenomena we communicate about. compare also Černý. stress patterns and pausing.diplomacy. ([members only] or [only on Thursdays]. pp. Examples of deep structure ambiguity: (a) Gerund+object or participle modifying a noun. as a rule. In other 13 http://diplo. ambiguity can appear at any level of discourse. As Pehar illustrates. Sources of Ambiguity Authorities claim that in everyday oral communication we fail to notice potential ambiguities. It was introduced by Pehar and he named it cross-textual. 169 – 170).g. This reveals the very nature of language and in order to explain the existence of language ambiguities the authorities draw on Saussure´s treatment of linguistic sign stressing its arbitrariness. 170 – 171.” (Kreidler. provide further clues thus disambiguating them. 2002. (‘Too cold to eat anything’ or ‘too cold for anybody to eat it’) (c) Ellipsis in comparative constructions: She likes John better than Joan. pp.PDF 38 . since. but also semantics of texts.The tennis courts are open to members only on Thursdays. Our world is always changing—our personal world. Cross-Textual Ambiguity As has been previously mentioned. 2002. e. 2002. our social world. phrases. combination of linguistic elements limits the range for each element. 2002). 2002. when uttered they get disambiguated by utilizing appropriate intonation. tied to subject or to complement: The duck is too cold to eat. as has been mentioned above. in other words. (‘Flying cars is dangerous’ or ‘Flying planes are dangerous’) (b) Adjective+infinitive. What is more. This type of ambiguity appears to be more delicate and more difficult to detect since it is an amalgam of “not only semantics of phrases or semantics of propositions and sentences. but also to a larger body of a text stretching over more sentences. it can connect to a discrete phrase or sentence. this type of ambiguity can frequently be encountered in legal documents as those who prepare various legal documents at times choose to be ambiguous. “there is no exact correlation between pieces of language—words. (‘Better than she like Joan’ or ‘better than Joan likes John’) (compare Kreidler. I can give you five more interesting examples. We may sporadically notice ambiguities in written texts while not being quite sure what the writer’s intention was (Kreidler. creating a total sense that still has a possible range of applications. the natural world— and language adapts in whatever way we need it. Pierce’s semiotic model emphasizes the relationships among the sign. semantics of sets of inter-related sentences. Pierce’s semiotic model stresses the fact that the concept to which the sign is related is always dependent on the language user's past experience with the object in question. 4. the concept which the sign evokes in the mind of language users and the object to which it is related. For instance. the sentences Sally didn’t start sewing at seven is ambiguous because the little word not may negate the whole sentence or only the expression of time: it wasn’t at seven (but at some other time) that Sally started sewing (Kreidler. p. Friction between the two sets of specifications is a key precondition for the creation of a cross-textual ambiguity and without it cross-textual ambiguity would not 13 occur at all”. Flying planes can be dangerous.’ Any linguistic element has a range of senses. Quiroga-Clare and Tondl). pp. 217). The above given cases of ambiguity appear to be questionable.

homophone16 and homograph17. Homonym. 39 . Kreidler (2002) demonstrates that when homonyms are be put into identical positions in utterances. jump. a head of lettuce or cabbage. (The noun head. (Kreidler. 314). as in flew (from fly). the other meanings can be seen as resulting from the basic one. Psychological. p. Meanings that can be taken for granted are in fact only the tip of a huge iceberg. are a frequent source of ambiguity. 2005.14 Another reason why ambiguity appears to be an intrinsic nature of language is the system into which the language units are arranged. however may change in relation to the given situation or context. head) as if their roles were to interconnect distant clusters (or contexts) by means of a far-reaching interaction (Markošová. the sign may persist. 2002: 55 – 56). the word spring may function as a verb that has a number of meanings related to a leap. as a rule. Cecilia: Language Ambiguity: A Curse and a Blessing. “The context in which ask occurs determines whether information or a favor is being requested. for example. Some lexemes seem to be homonyms. they may have originated from a common source although present day language users regard them as semantically unrelated (compare Tondl. Based on this comparison we can deduce that English ask is a polysemous verb that has two different verbs as equivalents in some other languages.g. Kreidler (2002) holds that a comparison ought to be made with some other languages. in some cases. Lexicographers and semanticists hold that a polysemous lexeme has several (apparently) related meanings. 2002. 17 When different words are spelled identically and possibly pronounced the same (examples: bank the slope immediately bordering a stream course along which the water normally runs and bank. seems to have related meanings when we speak of the head of a person. there is no lexical ambiguity”. the concept. flu (influenza) and flue (of a chimney). One way of explaining these interconnections is related to the semantic structure of the language and it takes into account all the connotations of a word. The central meaning of a word is denotation. for instance. this is. Polysemy is sometimes difficult to distinguish from homonymy. “I was on my way to the bank. issuing notes and transacting other financial business. Another example of a pun is a tattoo: “Marriage is not a word. also referred to as the cognitive or referential meaning. 2002. as a rule. There may be some lexical items that have a more or less fixed denotation.words. as a rule. p. In: Translation Journal.g. either reflecting the outer features and shape of the human head or. p. it is a sentence”. quite often homonyms represent different lexical categories and do not. If we take the anatomical referent as the basic denotation. e. Words. they may. 52). Words belonging to two or more distinct contexts are referred to as polysemous. 2006).htm 15 E. three Germanic and three Romance. however. lexical ambiguity occurs (as in. that “the ambiguity is not likely to be sustained in a longer discourse” as this will provide further clues thus disambiguating the homonym in question. social and cultural events provide a moving ground on which those meanings take root and expand their branches”. which can be taken as a test in order to establish whether we have two homonymous expressions or rather one polysemous expression 15(Kreidler. The first stage is called innovation which is always individual and. and safeguarding money and. Cognitive scientists have concluded that language can also be modeled like small world and on this view lexicon can be interpreted as a graph in which individual words are interconnected nods.com/journal/23ambiguity. Nilsen & Nilsen introduce the following examples of boat names: Nauti By Nature. http://accurapid. he adds. exchanging. allowing for such phonological variation as comes from accent) but standard spelling differs. it has two stages. lending. They are commonly exploited in puns. with the verbs ask before deciding. “Language is a very complex phenomenon. Pier Pressure. Therefore.g. What is more. 53). the head of an institution. head of a table or bed. an institution for receiving. appear to be members of two or more distinct contexts (e. however rare. however. or bound or it may function as a noun and refer to the season of the year. the primary function of the head with regard to the rest of the body). In other words. For instance. Berth Control (238) and an example of a beauty shop: Curl Up and Dye.”) He stresses. more conceptually. occur in identical contexts (Kreidler. 16 Where the pronunciation is identical (or close. Change in meaning is regarded as another source of ambiguity. be etymologically related. Dictionaries recognize the distinction between polysemy and homonymy by making a polysemous item a single dictionary entry and making homonymous lexemes two or more separate entries. anonymous (except for rare cases 14 Quiroga-Clare. he suggests that we look at the correspondences in six languages related to English.). As a rule.

need for a new coinage or neologism.g. 2006). a definition). Although interpretation norms may contribute to precision of expression.diplomacy. prestige of its author or other factor – it has an expressive value) and always has a social character (Černý – Holeš.diplomacy. p.PDF 40 .when it is traceable. e. prolong or discontinue communication.PDF. Ambiguity. we say that the world is a continuum while the words we use to describe it are 18 discrete”. Language is thus subject to not only representational pressure. e. vagueness and denotational uncertainty have their counterparts – definiteness. iii/ the conative function that is oriented toward the addressee. in: Hébert. is not the case and. “that the world is paratactic. iv/ the phatic function that serves to establish. compare Tondl. however. feminism was first used by Utopian Socialist Fourier in 1837. words come in succession. What is more. clarity and certainty.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. the language fulfills a number of further functions: ii/ the emotive function that is oriented toward the addresser. even vague and ambiguous expression as well as expressions with uncertain denotation may become definite and clear and unambiguous in certain contexts (Tondl. 1960. The change in meaning may be traceable in scientific terms (e.g. definiteness. clarity and certainty are relative in that they should always be considered in relation to a certain context. while language itself is syntactic. but many other functions as well.PDF 20 http://diplo. one after another. no doubt as to which item flows from which”. of Tritsmans. its items are co-present simultaneously. http://diplo. In other words. Some course-books on semantics. this would only be possible if the discreetness of the universe entirely corresponded with the discreetness of a language. p. it would be possible to state. Pehar holds. still subscribe to the treatment of ambiguity as language insufficiency (Kreidler). in principal. 2006. nevertheless. occurrence in communication of ambiguous and vague expressions as well as expressions with denotational uncertainty is inevitable. “In modern terminology. vii/ the poetic function that puts 'the focus on the message for its own sake' [(Jakobson. The reason why authorities regard the theory of disproportion as not viable is the fact that it only deals with the representational function of language and “it derives ambiguity from the fact that language represents reality in a less-than-perfect way” and therefore they regard ambiguity as a feature of language “insufficiency”. Regarding the theoretical explanations of the origins of ambiguity.20 In addition to i/ the referential function that is oriented toward the context. The world comes in totality. linguists have stressed. M. which may lead to confusion as to which phrase should be coupled with which. 18 19 http://diplo. snob originally meant tailor but W. 1987. clarity and certainty. vi/ the metalingual function that is used to establish mutual agreement on the code (for example. but to other. however.19 “Language. 356)]" (trans. 2004). Thus. Regarding this theory. Pehar presents the most rudimentary theory proposed by the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle. Thackeray started to use it in a different meaning in Book of Snobs). serves not only the function of representing reality. who regarded ambiguity as a manifestation of imperfection of a language system. Communication apparently should aim at definiteness.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. semantics was first used by Michel Bréal in 1897). therefore. This. The second stage is referred to as spread of innovation (depending on a variety of factors. they ought to be flexible so that they may help the terms adapt to new needs and roles that they fulfill in communication. 2006).g. Authorities have shunned this theory since it does not account for all types of ambiguity. On this view languages express an unlimited number of things with a limited number of resources (theory of disproportion). 19.diplomacy. which leaves us. social and psychological pressures as well”. specifically syntactical and cross-textual ambiguities.

Thus, authorities illustrate that ambiguous language may play an important role, especially in texts that focus on human beings21. What is more, in texts in which “the focus is on the message for its own sake” double discourse appears to be an inevitable device fulfilling poetic function. This is the case of tropes, such as metaphors, metonyms, symbols and allegories. These may have two incompatible readings, in which case they are manifestations of double discourse or they may be vague in which case they leave the freedom of interpretation to the reader:
“Allegories and metaphors divide the sign, exposing its arbitrariness. A living metaphor always carries dual meanings, the literal or sentence meaning and the conveyed or utterance meaning. A metaphor induces comparison, but since the grounds of similarity are not always given, metaphors serve to emphasize the freedom of the reader as opposed to the authority of the writer” (Quiroga-Clare).

5. Use of ambiguities in creating humor The intrinsic nature of ambiguities, i.e. the fact that a portion or a whole text has two incompatible readings, is frequently exploited in order to create humor.
“A text is funny if and only if the text is compatible (fully or in part) with two distinct scripts, and the two distinct scripts are in some way opposite.22 “... much of humor resides in the bistable nature of a comic impressionist or two incongruous interpretations of a given situation...”23

Oscillating of the brain between two incongruous interpretations, as authorities suggest, may be accompanied by laughter. Humor of the punch line in the following jokes is based on two incompatible semantic interpretations of certain expressions and syntactical structures:
“A man goes into a restaurant dragging a 10-foot alligator. He manages to get the alligator stuffed under a table. When the waitress approaches, he asks her if they serve senior citizens here. “Of course,” she says. 24 “Good,” he answers. “Give my alligator a senior citizen, and I’ll have a cheeseburger.” A: My husband is an angel. B: You’re lucky, mine’s still alive.25 A: What did the man say when he walked into the Post Office? B: Ouch.26

Authorities also illustrate that the humor of ambiguity may not necessarily result from semantics. Comic impressionists impersonate the politicians and celebrities and the humor of their performance is to a certain extent based on the fact that we "know" that we are watching the performer and yet we "see" the person they mimic. Here the effect of humor is caused by our brains oscillating between two images – the caricature and the impressionist.27 Lexical ambiguities are widely exploited in advertisements, in creating commercial propaganda as illustrated by the following examples all of which are based on homophones: boat names: Pier Pressure, Berth Control and the name of a beauty shop: Curl Up and Dye28. The exploitation of lexical ambiguity is referred to as pun.
“The English meaning of pun, which comes from the Italian word puntiglio meaning “fine point,” is the humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.29

http://diplo.diplomacy.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2.PDF Ruch, 2008: 25, In: Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P.: Linguistic Humor, Bilingual Humor, Translation, and Language Play. A Power point presentation. 23 Bradley, David: Ambiguity in Art http://www.sciencebase.com/ambiguity-in-art.html 24 Ruch, 2008: 25, In: Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P.: Linguistic Humor, Bilingual Humor, Translation, and Language Play. A Power point presentation. 25 Tom Hutchinson: lecture at the University of Prešov, 2009. 26 Tom Hutchinson: lecture at the University of Prešov, 2009. 27 Bradley, David: Ambiguity in Art http://www.sciencebase.com/ambiguity-in-art.html 28 Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P., 2000: 238, In: Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P.: Ambiguity and puns. A power point presentation. 29 Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P., 2000: 238, In: Nilsen, D. L., F. and Nilsen, A. P.: Ambiguity and puns. A power point presentation.
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Apart from referential function, the language in expressive texts fulfills a number of additional functions, therefore, ambiguities are widely utilized in stories, novels and movies in order to make their dialogues witty and develop plots, in order to provide for suspense, as well as portray the characters – relying also on incompatibility of aural and visual cues and thus making the audience’s brains flip between two incongruous images. Obvious examples of ambiguity may be agents operating undercover – pretending to be and acting as someone and at the same time being someone else. At any time their true identity may be revealed, which creates suspense30. Sometimes the whole plot is based on ambiguity, e.g. if a character is removed from their original domain into an alien one and this ambiguity may be “sustained until the story's climax.”31 Humor in the following exchange arises from the two incongruous semantic interpretations of an expression, from the incompatibility of aural and visual images. In the opening scene of the Bond movie Diamonds are forever, one of the players in the Casino asks for another playing card: “Hit me!” saying this at the very moment when he is actually hit by Bond. Here the verb hit is used in the former meaning (i.e. to give (someone) another playing card); however, the situation suggests the literal meaning of the verb (i.e. to slap, to strike). In the Bond movies dialogues sparkle with humor resulting from language ambiguity, e.g. in the movie Diamonds are forever the sentence “Tell him he’s fired!” is uttered by a character upon realizing that an employee of his has betrayed him. This happens at the very moment when the villain is being shot. Thus two messages are delivered simultaneously (aurally and visually): that the employee has been dismissed from his job and that a bullet has been projected at him. The following example of a humorous exchange has been taken from the Bond movie Octopussy. When 007 and his allies are chased by an enemy car, he remarks: “I think we’ve got company”. His companion, an Indian agent, responds: “No problem. This is a company car.” The word company is first used in the meaning of an assemblage of persons for social purposes and second as the Company, an informal expression, a nation's major intelligence-gathering and espionage organization. In the final scene of Diamonds are forever Bond confronts the main villain saying: “The Acme Pollution Control. We’re cleaning up the world and this is the apparent starting point.” The phrasal verb clean up is used obviously in the following two meanings: to wash or tidy up and to rid of undesirable persons. Scriptwriters present even Bond’s adversaries as creative in their use of language and thus they resort to ambiguities in order to create humor as can be exemplified by the exchange from the Diamonds are forever movie. After capturing 007 and when he is about to be cremated one of Bond’s adversaries remarks: “Glowing tribute, Mr Bond”. The word glowing is used in two incompatible meanings: both as an adjective meaning warmly favorable or complimentary and a present participle meaning to shine suggesting the act of cremation. Scriptwriters exploit ambiguities also to create the image of 007 as a knowledgeable and smart agent, highly competent professional manifesting incredible skills, and at the same time being calm and not losing his humor and stunningly good looks even under most difficult circumstances. The following exchange (from the movie Octopussy) and responses (from the movie The Spy who Loved me and Octopussy) can be used for exemplification of Bond’s sense of humor deriving from ambiguity:
“Thanks God for hard currency!” comments Bond when a bunch of Indian banknotes in his breast pocket prevent a knife from penetrating his chest. The expression hard currency is used in both its literal meaning, i.e. not soft; solid and firm to the touch; unyielding to pressure and impenetrable or almost impenetrable and figurative meaning supported by sufficient gold reserves and easily convertible into the currency of a foreign nation.

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Bradley, David: Ambiguity in Art http://www.sciencebase.com/ambiguity-in-art.html Bradley, David: Ambiguity in Art http://www.sciencebase.com/ambiguity-in-art.html 42

“He was cut off (pause) permanently,” responds Bond to the Russian agent XXX, who inquires about an informant’s whereabouts. Here the verb cut off has two readings: to stop suddenly and to kill.

One of the obvious scenes regularly presents 007 in Q´s laboratory where all the smart gadgets are invented and tested. A device crashing anybody that is standing behind the door and eavesdropping is being tested, and Bond gives the following comment: “Smashing!“ The adjective smashing is used both in the meaning of impressive or wonderful and crushing or devastating. In the Bond movies ambiguities have political undertones and are exploited in order to ridicule the totalitarian system in the former Soviet Union and its allies. In the movie The Spy who Loved me 007 frequently teases his Russian counterpart (the agent XXX), as illustrated in the following exchange:
XXX: “It’s getting cold”. 007: “Is there anything I can do to warm you up?” XXX: ”You needn’t worry about me, Mr. Bond. I went on a survival course in Siberia”. 007: “Yes, I believe a great number of your countrymen do”.

Here the phrase a survival course in Siberia is used in its literal meaning (by the Russian agent XXX) and as a referentially ambiguous expression by 007 referring to gulags in Siberia. In the 007 movies one reading of ambiguities frequently has a sexual undertone and portrays Bond as a confident man who knows his ways with women and is endowed with irresistible charm as illustrated by the following examples: In the movie Diamonds are forever one of the Bond girl’s name is Plenty. Upon the first meeting in the Casino Plenty introduces herself saying “I’m Plenty”, to which Bond promptly replies: “But of course you are” looking at her full bosom. In another scene of the same movie, in a hotel bedroom Bond discusses some issues with another Bond girl and soothes her with the following words: “Relax, darling, I’m on top of situation”. In the movie The Spy who Loved me when an attractive receptionist enters Bond’s room with a message saying: “I have a message for you”, Bond responds: “You have just delivered it.” The whole utterance is interpreted by Bond in its figurative meaning, i.e. he admits that a beautiful woman always appeals to him. In the final scene of the same movie Bond is caught with the Russian spy and upon being asked what he is doing, he responds smartly: “Keeping the British end up, Sir.” Again, the whole utterance can be interpreted in figurative or literal meaning. In the Octopussy in one of the regularly occurring scenes presenting Q´s laboratory, a special gadget for climbing is tested and it fails to maintain its upright position, which promptly makes Bond tease Q: “Having trouble keeping it up, Q?” referring to the deficiency of the device or Q´s old age. Similarly, the introductory scene in Basic instinct 1 also utilizes ambiguity with sexual undertone. On the murder scene one of the cops says: “He got off before he got off”. The former phrasal verb get off is used in the meaning to leave or die and the latter one is a vulgar slang expression in the meaning to experience orgasm. In expressive texts, the authors play with words and their meanings and reveal the characters´ personality traits as can be illustrated by a response in The Big Bang Theory series. One of the main protagonists (Sheldon) is forced to take driving lessons. Upon being asked in the driving school to hand in his application: “Application!”, he responds: “I’m rather a theorist.” Here the word application is used in two meanings first as the act of putting to a special use or purpose and, second, as a form to be filled out by an applicant for a driver's license. This specific case is used to characterize Sheldon as a nerd who can only think of his experiments and therefore, the first meaning of the word application that springs to his mind is the act of putting to a special use or purpose. The following examples of ambiguities selected from the 007 movies are used to create suspense, develop the plot and they present Bond as a smart agent who is always one step ahead of his adversaries and quick in exposing them. 007 says one thing and implies another thus leaving his enemies bewildered and confused and keeping the audience in suspense as he can be exemplified by the following exchanges:
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diplomacy. Cecilia: Language Ambiguity: A Curse and a Blessing. F. I wish your good luck with your research”. Signo [on-line]. and Van Berkum. the latter meaning can only be comprehended by his adversary. 6. “The Functions of Language”.sciencebase. Sixth edition.htm 44 32 . Rimouski (Quebec). 2002.sfsu. he is saved by his partner and upon returning to the Casino he remarks to his fellow players: “That last hand. Jakobson. – Nilsen. A. Charles. Kent. Volume 2 Issue 4. J.html Černý. Introducing English Semantics.). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://online. Sterling and if we don’t meet again.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. in Louis Hébert (dir. In the movie Casino Royale 007 almost gets poisoned during the poker game. in Louis Hébert (dir. “Ambiguity in Art” at http://www. Cecilia: Language Ambiguity: A Curse and a Blessing. Hornby. http://www. Naturally. – Holeš.34 References Bach. 2004. Quiroga-Clare. “In this sense. J. Conclusion Based on the above-given treatment it appears to be more appropriate to view ambiguity (together with vagueness and denotational uncertainty) as a usual and persistent phenomenon rather than an indication of the representational deficiency of language because all language users occasionally use language means in a novel way or for novel purposes and literary texts consistently use tropes that always rely on double readings since language is a versatile means exploited by language users to fulfill a variety of functions. S. Alleen Pace.. http://accurapid.com/journal/23ambiguity. Linguistic Humor.com. in Louis Hébert (2006). manipulate and consequently to persecute. Nieuwland. 007: “Thank you.signosemio. Signo [on-line]. Translation. Semiotika. Hébert. Pages 603 – 630. referring to the cards dealt to or held by each player at one time and suggesting that somebody has been employed in an apparent attempt to kill him.html Bradley.e.). and Language Play. Don L. Rimouski (Quebec). Mr.com/journal/23ambiguity. F. Louis. "Linguistics and Poetics". it nearly killed me”. Oxford Advanced Learner´s Dictionary. 2008. Power point presentation. Taylor & Francis e-Library. Alleen Pace. i. David. However.com.signosemio. Mante S. Ed. In: Language and Linguistics Compass.The Spy who Loved me Stromberg: “Good bye. Power point presentation. Praha: Portál.com/ambiguity-in-art. AMBIGUITY & PUNS. Ambiguities have been referred to as both “curse and blessing”32 depending on what role in communication they fulfill – whether they are utilized with the intention to amuse or to fulfill an aesthetic function or whether they are a kind of “Machiavellian manipulative device”33 meaning that they are utilized in order to deceive. Kreidler. http://accurapid. Jos J. OUP. “The Functions of Language”. resulting in persecution. Bilingual Humor.htm 33 http://diplo. Sally Wehmeier.PDF 34 Quiroga-Clare. In: Translation Journal. – Nilsen. W.edu/~kbach/ambguity. 2006. http://www. oppression. A. The Neurocognition of Referential Ambiguity in Language Comprehension. In: Translation Journal. ambiguity in literature has a very dark side. when important documents are interpreted in different ways. Published Online. The brief glimpse you’ve afforded me today will only encourage me to redouble my efforts”. Nilsen. Don L. and death”. Nilsen. thus conveying two messages. 2002. see also “Jokes” and “Language Play”. R.

Karolinum. Use of Ambiguities in Peace Agreements (163 – 199). Language Ambiguity: A Curse and a Blessing.htm Tondl. Dražen. L.edu/books/language_and_diplomacy/texts/pdf/pehar2. 45 .com/journal/23ambiguity.diplomacy. Problémy sémantiky. UK Praha. http://accurapid.PDF Quiroga-Clare. Cecilia. 2006.Pehar. In: Translation Journal. http://diplo.

official-documents. Since MIGHT is essentially a form of MAY. Coates 1983. 66) The paper is concerned with the English modal auxiliary MAY and its morphologically past tense form MIGHT. on account of complexity of central modal verbs. the morphologically past tense form MIGHT is then treated as an independent lexical unit with neutral time reference (present.uk/ New Powers Against Organised and Financial Crime [FC] Countering International Terrorism: The United Kingdom’s Strategy [IT] Human Trafficking (the government reply to the twenty-sixth report from the joint committee on human rights session). The extracts were drawn from ACAD and ADMIN. Still. the selected texts were first scanned for the occurrences of MAY or MIGHT. hypothetical). Papafragou 2000). it is not always possible to interpret some occurrences unambiguously even if the relevant linguistic and extralinguistic contexts are available. it focuses on various contextual factors and syntactic correlations in order to reveal their significance and relevance in terms of the root-epistemic distinction. 1999. 1995. Finally. contextual features and syntactic structures were analyzed in detail with respect to their influence on the interpretation of particular occurrences. for example. [HC] 46 . Data used in the analysis: ADMIN: http://www. Due to the extent of the material and its character.gov. In order to be able to summarize the major distinctions between the two possibility readings. Palmer 1990. et al. negation. mainly those focusing on delineating epistemic and nonepistemic modality. The investigation reflects the centre-periphery and textual approach (contextualized occurrences).”(Matthews 2003. This means that the analysis confirms that. Special attention is paid to examining the relation between the modals and other domains of grammar. The excerpted material consists of 200 occurrences of MAY/MIGHT conveying root or epistemic possibility. The major aim is to examine semantic aspects of MAY/MIGHT in particular contexts and syntactic structures and to reveal the most significant contextual factors in terms of the root-epistemic possibility distinction. It reports and summarizes the findings of a small-scale corpus-based investigation which primarily focuses on assigning appropriate readings to contextualized occurrences of the analyzed modals in administrative and academic style and which is essentially based on determining the crucial factors distinguishing epistemic possibility (factual) and root possibility (theoretical) meaning. It only attempts to fully exploit the material under investigation and thus draw attention to significant issues. Thirdly. Tárnyiková 1978. context and convention. each style is represented by 100 occurrences of MAY/MIGHT conveying possibility meaning. time reference or hypothetical marking. describing semantic components of modal verbs and investigating their distribution in different styles (Biber. it examines the occurrence of their meanings in academic (ACAD) and administrative (ADMIN) texts. [HT] Government Response to the Health Committee’s Report on NHS Charges. the paper does not intend to investigate all the potential uses of MAY/MIGHT or to suggest universally valid conclusions. Methodological Framework and Research Data The analysis draws upon several sources. Secondly. Leech 2004. which help disambiguate the intended reading. Dušková 1972. future.Readings of MAY/MIGHT in Academic and Administrative Style Petra Huschová Introduction “Whether a modal auxiliary is univocal or ambiguous may be inherent to the auxiliary. Firstly. the paper presents a general account of possibility senses of MAY and MIGHT and reviews the approaches and issues relating to their use. the paper deals with semantic indeterminacy because indeterminate instances which might be interpreted as epistemic or root have been recorded. but its interpretation in particular instances will be determined by construction.

The epistemic possibility reading is viewed as essentially non-factive. Generally. Leech’s study (2003) suggests: “…this sense was virtually absent from speech even in 1961 and has declined in writing since then. but I am not sure. as in Some problems may be expected = Nothing prevents us from expecting some problems. represented by a scale of contextually motivated semantic components ‘pulsing’ between the centre and its periphery with set phrases and frozen idioms at its very end”. the researchers disagree on whether they should be treated as polysemous or monosemous and whether their transition from one kind of modality to another is discrete or gradual.” (2003. In contrast. Oxford: Oxford University Press. which can be assigned to the fact that it can be replaced by CAN. However. Accordingly. explaining that different readings result from the interplay of linguistic and extralinguistic factors and represent merely modifications of the core meaning. the first denying the existence of discrete categories of meaning. MIGHT is treated separately when having hypothetical meaning or referring to the past. Accordingly. the case of root MAY is more complex since the verb can convey two root senses. 75) The examples expressing permission are normally paraphrased with allow/permit. 139-143 or Leech 2004. root MAY/MIGHT is considered to be secondary. [JJ] Meanings of MAY/MIGHT The paper is based on the general concept of modality defined as a semantic category reflecting the relation or attitude of the speaker to the content of the proposition. 77) points out that it is their only meaning that is still flourishing. which can be interpreted Perhaps she is ill. The modal verbs MAY and MIGHT are used for the expression of both epistemic and root possibility. However. 12) 35 MIGHT occurring in non-past contexts is discussed alongside MAY in order to avoid unnecessary overlaps when their readings and uses are more or less analogous. Similarly. Polysemists also argue that meanings of a modal relate to distinctive syntactic and semantic properties (for example. 47 . the modal verbs MAY and MIGHT can be used for expressing both epistemic and root modality. Lyons 1977. some linguists adopt models positing a continuously graded degree of membership. Palmer 1990.ACAD: Jenkins. using the modal verb + perfect infinitive with epistemic modals when referring to the past) and the modal is ambiguous between its root and epistemic meaning when used in abstraction from context. Approaches to the Study of the English Modal Verbs As has been suggested. MAY conveys permission where some authority or regulations can be identified. Consequently. In its possibility sense MAY conveys “nothing at all prevents p from taking place”. I do not have enough evidence. being restricted in its distribution to formal contexts. as in She may be ill. On the other hand. Perkins 1983) reject the epistemic-root dichotomy. Jennifer (2000). but it is interpreted as possibility where the external circumstances apply. The Phonology of the English Language. Nevertheless. Epistemic possibility is considered to be their most frequent use and Leech (2004. whereas root (theoretical) possibility concerns a potential actualisation of an event due to external 35 circumstances/enabling conditions. Leech 2004) associating each modal verb with multiple meanings or semantic components. (cf. the latter assuming discrete categories of meaning in all cases. epistemic (factual) possibility is understood as speaker’s lack of confidence in the truth of the proposition. Tárnyiková (1978) points out: “The transition from central to peripheral semantic components is gradual. encoding the speaker’s uncertainty in that the speaker does not commit himself to a categorical assertion. possibility and permission. Coates (1983) represents the meaning of a modal verb as a fuzzy set where an instance may fit a category to a certain degree (rather than either fitting or not fitting) and the transition from membership to non-membership is gradual. neither monosemantic nor polysemantic approach seems to be wholly satisfactory in that they fail to deal with the problem of indeterminacy in real language. 234) Unlike epistemic MAY. Coates 1983. canonical studies of modal verbs advocate the polysemy-based approach (Halliday 1970. The authors adopting the monosemy-based approach (Papafragou 2000. (1978. as in You may leave = I allow you to leave/You are allowed to leave.

e. According to Leech and Coates (1980. yet the majority of examples are found at the periphery. corresponding to the sense that most speakers assign to a form. Coates (1983) adds that the core represents the meaning learned first by children. (c) and prototypical discourse meaning referring to the most frequent contextualized meaning that the modal conveys in a corpus of language data. she introduces three types of meaning. 39-40. i. 80-83) Merger occurs when two interpretations are so closely related that they are in a both/and relationship and the text makes sense no matter which of them we choose. 92-93). one inevitably comes across cases which cannot be unambiguously assigned solely to one category and their interpretation is seen as resulting from pragmatic interpretation.e. 15-16. whereas with gradience one of them is less satisfactory. (cf. In its possibility sense MAY conveys “nothing at all prevents p from taking place” while its permission sense “nothing prevents p from taking place” is restricted to a specific world of man-made freedoms and obligations. 81-3) and Coates (1983. The analysis confirms that when the modal verbs are studied in real language data. With merger both readings are satisfactory. whereas the periphery is formed by its more frequent possibility sense. semantic. whereas those expressing various degrees of indeterminacy are found between the core and the periphery of each modal. ambiguity is rare and can be found mainly in isolated sentences because context normally indicates the appropriate reading. ambiguity and merger. and the precise point at which one interpretation is no longer possible is usually difficult to establish.e. i. 15 5 6 9 26 68 root 33 33 ACAD epist. namely gradience. Merger acknowledges distinct senses and simultaneously recognizes a common element of meaning connecting them. The acknowledgment of such indeterminate cases thus leads to the adoption of the centre-periphery approach rather than applying purely monosemantic or polysemantic approach. 72) Consequently. prosodic. it applies to MAY expressing epistemic and root possibility. Gradience applies when there is a continuum of meaning with variable degree of similarity to one of the categories. for example permission and possibility. i. (Leech and Coates 1980. determined by the interaction of 36 the modal verb with morphosyntactic. The distinct interpretations are in an either-or relationship. Ambiguity is identified when a modal verb has two senses belonging to different categories (root and epistemic) and it is not possible to decide from the immediate context which of them is intended. 32 4 4 8 40 98 root 50 50 possibility present time reference past time reference future time reference indeterminate cases total 36 Silva-Corvalán (1995) points out that contextually inferred senses have been mistakenly considered to be the part of the modal meaning owing to their high frequency of occurrence.” (1995. there are three types of indeterminacy in the transition from one kind of modality. (a) de-contextualized invariant meaning denoting a core underlying meaning present in all uses of a modal. so that only one makes sense in a particular context. 48 . Tárnyiková 1985) Silva-Corvalán (1995) does not attribute fuzziness to modal verbs but to the contexts in which they occur: “…fuzziness or graded membership of contexts allows for various interpretations of modalized propositions. and pragmatic factors . (b) contextualized meaning denoting the sense which the modal conveys in a specific context. Distribution of MAY and MIGHT in ACAD and ADMIN Table 1: Distribution of MAY and its readings MAY ADMIN epist. the core meaning of MAY is permission. For instance. Nonetheless.Clear discrete examples occur at the semantic core.

the enabling circumstances are rarely explicitly expressed. where hypothetical MIGHT is commonly found. the academic text prefers MAY to indicate what is. This meaning is also commonly associated with the enabling external conditions. cf. 1999.34] = it is possible to omit a sound altogether. consonant deletion makes it possible to omit a sound altogether The findings also clearly demonstrate that root possibility MAY is significantly associated with ACAD and ADMIN (cf. (ADMIN) [FC. i. they are concerned with conveying theoretical possibility. more often they are implied in the context. The noticeably higher proportion of MAY can be explained due to the fact that in ADMIN and ACAD the verb is commonly employed to express both epistemic and root possibility. where they discuss possible explanations and indicate expected outcomes. 2 root 1 1 2 The findings suggest that MAY (166 tokens) is more frequent than its morphologically past tense form MIGHT (34 tokens). in fiction epistemic MAY has been identified in 90% of excerpts).” (2003. root possibility. which. whereas the minor senses. or is not. in comparison with CAN. as in the following example: 49 . 4 2 1 1 1 3 9 32 root 20 20 ACAD epist. for example as part of a deal to turn Queen’s Evidence. All 83 root possibility MAY tokens have present time reference owing to their occurrence in general statements of possibilities. which basically tentatively suggest and introduce various measures. ensuring that the QE subject is bound to conditions of good behaviour. epistemic MAY is generally more frequent since it is not limited to formal contexts (for example. it conveys information more formally. has become more broadly based and known as Communication Accommodation Theory or CAT (see Giles and Coupland 1991).Table 2: Distribution of MIGHT and its readings MIGHT possibility present time reference past time reference future time reference hypothetical (present) hypothetical (past) Indeterminate cases total ADMIN epist. for example. 491-3) because. This difference might be explained in terms of a more speculative nature of the official documents.21] = this theory enables speakers to adjust their speech… However. (ACAD) [JJ. (ACAD) [JJ.e. Leech’s study (2003): “MAY shows a common tendency for the dominant sense of epistemic possibility in the early 60s to be even more dominant in the early 1990s. Despite a large number of instances of root possibility MAY in the studied registers (83 tokens). typically by a Taiwanese speaker of English.31] = using the orders would be possible On the other hand. have become even more marginal. in more recent years. speakers may adjust their speech either in the direction of that of their interlocutors (convergence) or away from that of their interlocutors (divergence). possible to achieve with regard to the enabling conditions represented by various models and methods. as in the following example: (2) In the case of consonant deletion a sound may be omitted altogether. as in: (3) According to this theory. such as the omission of the /r/ in ‘price’. as opposed to administrative texts. Biber et al. as in: (1) The orders might be used alongside prosecution. 243) The two registers differ markedly in the proportion of MAY to MIGHT in that the academic text employs mainly non-past forms.

or deletion. However. but the verb MAY can be indeterminate between its epistemic possibility and root possibility sense. for example. the epistemic-root boundary for possibility meanings of MAY/MIGHT should be clear-cut. associated with clear semantic and syntactic criteria. for example.7] = using the term to mean military struggle is possible Similarly. This implies that the paraphrases deny the existence of any intermediate cases. Root-epistemic Distinction The analysis has proved that MAY is commonly associated with the sense of possibility and in formal contexts regularly expresses both root and epistemic possibility. all or sometimes because existential possibility involves generalization. as in (7).35] = it is sometimes the case that an intelligibility problem results… In these cases. whereas root modality by an infinitive construction. i. these criteria focus largely on distinguishing epistemic possibility from root permission and do not relate to the differences between the two possibility readings. for example: (8) Mandarin speakers of English may. MAY is frequently found in passivized sentences (21 tokens out of 83). Such instances can be paraphrased with expressions of quantification like some. therefore.10] = Although an individual is not perhaps relatively disadvantaged. Generally. tend to add schwa to words which end in obstruents. a deviant sound substitution/conflation. the majority relating to the nature of subject and verb. as in: (7) While an individual may not be relatively disadvantaged.e. he or she may identify with others seen as less privileged. linguists propose different paraphrases to disambiguate epistemic and root readings of MAY. the word ‘tag’ may be pronounced /tæg∂/. Since root and epistemic meanings are normally seen as unrelated (polysemy-based approach). (ACAD) [JJ. owing to high degree of formality of the analyzed registers (cf. As to root possibility. (ACAD) [JJ. 85 or Palmer 2001.e. However. as in: (5) An intelligibility problem may result from a unique deviation source. The root-epistemic distinction of possibility MAY/MIGHT is often associated with syntactic cooccurrence patterns. There is widespread agreement that 100 per cent associations can be established for epistemic MAY when it co-occurs with an inanimate or existential subject. the analysis confirms the low implication value of this variable in that the passive can be used freely with epistemic possibility MAY.34] = we have some evidence that replacing the elided sound is possible Root MAY also often appears to convey existential possibility where the objective data lead the writer to state rather than infer. 7) Epistemic meaning is paraphrasable by a that-clause. root possibility MAY. commonly cooccurs with an inanimate subject or the pronoun it. it is possible for p to do. root possibility MAY is believed to co-occur significantly with the passive. also different generations within the same family may have significantly different views about these issues. but the vast majority of Muslims do not consider today’s terrorism to be legitimate. i. Leech 2004.e. It may also be used to mean military struggle. (see. i. it applies to at least some members of the set. for example the spiritual struggle to lead a good life. in conjunction with perfect aspect or in negated utterances. as in: (6) The term “jihad” refers primarily to non-violent struggle. he or she … Most passive structures co-occurring with epistemic MAY can be found in environments supporting the epistemic reading. In the epistemic paraphrase p stands for a proposition while p in the root paraphrase stands for an event. for example. Palmer 1990 and Facchinetti 2003).e. like epistemic MAY. the writer merely reports a state of fact and draws conclusions on the basis of experiments or observations. that is. any. i. it is possible that p. or addition within a single word. For instance. (ADMIN) [JJ..102] = one/speakers may pronounce the word 50 .(4) Alternatively. (ADMIN) [IT. (ADMIN) [IT. or with the pronoun it. military jihad. the elided sound may be replaced by a glottal stop as in the Chinese-English pronunciation of ‘duck’..

In a considerable proportion of instances. Perfect aspect has been recorded in 9 instances. the proposition refers to the moment of speaking (11) The Government will be working with local communities to identify other areas where radicalisation may be taking place and to help communities protect themselves and counter the efforts of extremist radicalisers. Negation Negated MAY seems to be associated exclusively with epistemic possibility. it is the main predication that is affected by negation. the speaker’s lack of confidence in the truth of the proposition is unaffected. Being considered to be crucial. it is the modal predication that is affected by these. (10) The confusion between /r/ and /l/ is relatively rare in J1’s speech and. (ADMIN) [IT. all of them being interpreted as unambiguously epistemic. Facchinetti 2003. has both the proposition and modality in its scope. past time marking and hypothetical marking. (ACAD) [JJ. as in (8) above. hypothetical marking and negation affect the main predication of epistemic modals. (see Tárnyiková 1979 or Coates 1995) Both epistemic and root possibility are related to the speaker’s assessment of the likelihood that the content of a proposition is or may become true. the issue is not so much the truth of a proposition but the occurrence of an event. but corresponding active sentences usually imply a general human agent. as in these two examples. or to definite past (prior to the moment of speaking). On the other hand. With root modals.e. as in the following example: 51 . the agent is unexpressed.13] = … where radicalisation will be perhaps taking place. MAY with present time reference constitutes 71% of all the tokens of epistemic MAY. while a possible event in the past has to be indicated by MAY + perfect infinitive. In ACAD and ADMIN.11] = perhaps this has been counter-productive This example illustrates that the function of perfect aspect is to assign past time reference to the proposition because the modal meaning itself cannot refer to the past. 312) Time reference Dušková (1972. (ADMIN) [FC. On the other hand. In ADMIN and ACAD. in dependence on the context. Linguists also propose distinguishing between the two concepts in terms of scope. in fact. as in: (12)While we understand and recognize the reasons why politicians of all parties have called for prosecution of such men for rape. the reading of which is obviously epistemic. concerned with the speaker’s logical inference. Epistemic possibility.16] = perhaps this is not a practical option This example illustrates that although the modal is morphologically marked for negation. in this instance. whereas future time reference has been found rare (15%). be a case of overcompensation. past time marking. the scope difference was regularly applied to facilitate the interpretation of analyzed utterances. time reference of the proposition is clearly indicated by other verb forms or temporal indicators in the immediate context. 30-1) observes that. epistemic MAY in conjunction with present infinitive refers either to the present or to the future. although we recognize that this may not be a practical option in some cases. the proposition refers to the time subsequent to the moment of speaking The modal predication remains unaffected in both examples. although MAY can occur freely with future time reference. may. i. as in (12) above. The difference in scope has consequences for negation. (cf. To sum up. With the future. it does appear that this may have been counter-productive. root possibility has only the proposition in its scope. The proposition of MAY + perfect infinitive can refer either to indefinite past (extending up to the moment of speaking). for example: (9) It is always open for a victim to sue an offender for damages (compensation) in the civil courts. present is considered to be more central. the speaker’s assessment of the proposition remains unaffected.In nearly all the recorded passive structures (20 out of 21). (ADMIN) [HR.63] = in this instance it is perhaps a case of overcompensation. 12 occurrences of MAY are negated.

changes to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).38] = areas where improvements would be possible As with the scope of negation or time reference. quite distinct: (14) We have also been looking at some important. it passed unnoticed The proposition in the second clause contradicts the proposition in the first clause and the writer appears to admit that a certain assumption is not ruled out by his/her current knowledge. (ADMIN) [FC. arguing that with epistemic possibility the speaker implies. (ACAD) [JJ. All instances are interpreted epistemically although they do not convey the prototypical epistemic reading of MAY. rather than expressing a lack of confidence in its truth. the speaker/writer expresses his/her opinion (at the moment of speaking) about an unlikely present or future situation. These two are. in epistemic reading. for its concessive function is actualised according to the context. for example: (17) Whilst such a system may offer some advantages over current arrangements. (ADMIN) [FC. modalized sentences are felt to be more tentative than their unmodalized counterparts. can occur in epistemic (2 tokens) as well as root possibility meanings (22 tokens). however. to contract out the enforcement of confiscation orders. As for distribution. (ADMIN) [HC. Huddleston (1993) justifies this use as epistemic. the Government considers that they are outweighed by significant disadvantages. both at the time and during the subsequent playback of the recordings. minimally. hypothetical root possibility MIGHT occurs particularly in formal language where it might be substituted by COULD. to enable financial investigators who are police staff to exercise more of the powers under POCA. the main predication is affected by the unreality while the modal predication remains unaffected. Collins (2007) believes that the speaker concedes the truth of the proposition. and to examine what improvements might be necessary to the “consent regime” in POCA.e. 1985.25] = it is possible that some improvements would be necessary… (15) Operational experience of the legislation over the last three years has shown areas where it might be improved. 52 . Quirk et al. Hypothetical MIGHT. for example: (16) The occasional pragmatic failure may have occurred but passed unnoticed or without comment by the interlocutors. i. On the other hand. MAY seems to be preferred to the alternative simple present perhaps because of politeness. if essentially technical. in particular 19 tokens (out of 66) have been identified. for example Leech (2004) or Palmer (1990). it passed unnoticed Hypothetical marking MIGHT is interpreted hypothetically on account of a condition which may be realized formally as a conditional clause or may be implicit in the context of utterance.84] = although the occasional pragmatic failure (possibly) occurred. both at the time and during the subsequent playback of the recordings.17] = although such a system perhaps offers some advantages…. In ACAD and ADMIN. do not acknowledge hypothetical root possibility MIGHT. while (15) conveys root possibility since the modal predication is affected. for example. concessive use of MAY occurs predominantly in concessive clauses introduced by although/though or while/whilst (14 tokens). 224) 37 Some linguists. (1985) and Leech (2004) term this use of MAY “quasi-subjunctive”. Coates 1983. that he/she does not know that the proposition is false. also called “conditional” or “remote of MAY”. 158 or Dušková 1972. [JJ.84] = although the occasional pragmatic failure (possibly) occurred. Concessive Clauses Epistemic MAY has been found to occur frequently in sentences having concessive force.(13) The occasional pragmatic failure may have occurred but passed unnoticed or without comment by the interlocutors. Quirk et al. like 37 root possibility MAY. (cf. (cf. These would enable us. 32) The paraphrases indicate that (14) conveys epistemic possibility.

as in (16) above (3 instances) and by subordinate clauses beginning with whatever. removal may be postponed or cancelled. Such indeterminate cases indicate that epistemic and root possibility senses of MAY/MIGHT are weakly distinguished. for the analyzed governmental documents deal with rules and regulations. as in: (19) Weinberger suggests that within a second language. “Such terms now simply block understanding rather than allowing English teachers wherever they may originate and wherever they may work to acknowledge that English as an International Language (EIL) is here to stay” (1996. As has been explained. the term “merger” denotes the instances which might be interpreted as epistemic or root with little difference to the message conveyed. whenever or whoever (2 instances): (18) As Alexander argues. Being restricted to particular contexts. (see Coates 1995) Nine tokens of root MAY can be discussed in terms of gradience where the core expresses permission and the periphery possibility. where it can be difficult to differentiate between cautious statements (epistemic possibility) and presenting information as a fact (root possibility). to the indicative interpretation. Consequently. i. as in: (20) If there is information or evidence that there is a risk to the individual. where it is not always possible to distinguish between them. (ACAD) [JJ. (ADMIN) [HR.e. It was the context that provided the necessary clues for the final disambiguation of many instances.119] = epistemic: perhaps awareness of potential ambiguity will increase with proficiency but perhaps it will not = root: it is sometimes the case that awareness of potential ambiguity increases with proficiency The instances of merger occurred in ACAD. the two seemingly distinct senses co-occur in formal settings. which are in most contexts mutually exclusive. The findings show that the basic criterion in interpreting MAY/MIGHT is the dependence of the respective meaning on the context.16] = permission: some authority will allow postponement = possibility: information or evidence that there is a risk to the individual will make it possible to postpone … Conclusions Since MAY/MIGHT can be employed to express epistemic and root possibility. 5) (ACAD) [JJ. All 9 tokens of root MAY indeterminate between permission and possibility have been identified in ADMIN. merger may be termed “contextual neutralisation”. awareness of potential ambiguity may increase with proficiency. (see Coates 1983. Nevertheless. they should be characterized as polysemous. (cf. it was sometimes difficult to establish the point at which one interpretation was no longer possible. root it is possible for p to…) posited by a large number of authors have proved to be inadequate and often failed to distinguish root and epistemic possibility. which proves that merger tends to occur in formal written language owing to the constraints of formality relating to the root possibility interpretation of MAY. 16). The analysis has confirmed that syntactic co-occurrence patterns and correlations do not always represent a reliable criterion in distinguishing the two possibility readings because they focus largely on differentiating epistemic possibility from root permission.11] In comparison with the instances discussed above these seem to be identical to their unmodalized equivalents.Another type of concessive environment in the examined material is represented by coordinate clauses joined by the conjunction but. many of the suggested factors (especially those 53 . They merge in scientific discourse. 8 of them can be discussed in terms of merger. However. 9 in terms of gradience. Such instances contain elements of both root and epistemic possibility and the two interpretations coexist in a both/and relationship in that the context fails to exclude one of them. The notoriously known paraphrases (epistemic it is possible that p vs. Leech 2004) Indeterminate Cases Altogether 17 tokens of MAY have been interpreted as indeterminate in the analyzed registers.

“Semantic Indeterminacy and the Modals”. Leech. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. The Semantics of the Modal Auxiliaries. Palmer. Berlin: Mounton de Gruyter. “Pragmatic and sociological constraints on the functions of may in contemporary British English”.A. Quirk. whereas root possibility as concerning merely the verbal element (an event or state). Modality in Contemporary English. D. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Halliday. “A contrastive study of can. 223 – 240.. 1980. Coates. TAM and interrogatives”. Svartvik and G. Palmer. Palmer. 2002. Oxford: Elsevier.K. Bybee and S. in R. J. Brisbane. 2007. in R. 1999. R. Facchinetti. 47 – 70. Krug and F. Modal Expressions in English. G. London: Longman. in I. eds. R. Modality in Grammar and Discourse. J. 2003. eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Huddleston. Collins. G. Fleischman. Leech. J. London: Croom Helm. eds. Epistemic possibility is basically understood as concerning the proposition as a whole. as opposed to root possibility. Stated differently. Modality: Issues in the Semantics-Pragmatics Interface. Modality in Contemporary English. London: Frances Pinter. K. 2003. may. R. “Modality on the move: The English modal auxiliaries 1961 – 1992”. 302 – 327. Conrad. J. London: Longman. Papafragou. 1970. Modality in Contemporary English. and S. M. Johansson. 1983. A. eds. 79 – 99. Meaning and the English Verb. In place of syntactic correlations. which has only proposition in its scope. Facchinetti. in R. R. F. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. 1993. “Modal auxiliary constructions. E. Palmer.associated with the nature of subject and verb) do not relate adequately to the differences between the two possibility senses of MAY/MIGHT and are thus seen as mere tendencies in particular contexts. must and their Czech equivalents”. M. P. Annual Meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society. 1972. eds. 54 . 1995. 1990. Pullum. London: Longman. epistemic possibility has proposition as well as modality in its scope. in R. Palmer. G. Greenbaum. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. S. 2000. R. Coates. M. 1983. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Krug and F. Leech. M. Huddleston. R. Finegan. London: Longman. “The expression of root and epistemic possibility in English”. R. 1977. “Can and may: monosemy or polysemy?”. References Biber. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. M. Dušková. F. Introduction to the Grammar of English. Matthews. Modality and the English Modals. L. Coates. Studies in modern philology 1: 5 – 77. Facchinetti. Perkins. Semantics. Lyons. Leech. London: Longman. and G. 2003. G. Berlin: Mounton de Gruyter. Facchinetti. in J. R. Studies in English Linguistics. Mood and Modality. 55 – 66. Berlin: Mounton de Gruyter. Laughren. R. S. Leech. 2001. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Krug and F. eds. 2004. a reliable criterion has proved to be the operation scope of the modal. Mushin and M. and J.

R.uk/: New Powers Against Organised and Financial Crime Countering International Terrorism: The United Kingdom’s Strategy Human Trafficking (the government reply to the twenty-sixth report from the joint committee on human rights session) Government Response to the Health Committee’s Report on NHS Charges Jenkins.official-documents.. Tárnyiková. 2000. J. London: Longman. Svartvik.gov. Germanica Olomucensia 4: 7 – 22. Source Texts http://www. 1979. G. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. J. Leech and J. Tárnyiková. Greenbaum. Modalita v angličtině (část 1). 1995. J. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého. 1985. S.Quirk. “Contextual Conditions for the Interpretation of poder and deber in Spanish”. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins. The Phonology of the English Language. Analýza komponentů základních modálních sloves v angličtině. Bybee and S. 1978. C. in J. Oxford: Oxford University Press 55 . Fleischman. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého. “Semantic components of some modal verbs”. Silva-Caravan. eds. 1985. Tárnyiková. J. 67 – 105. Modality in Grammar and Discourse.

present in an ever-growing number of job situations. The English language contains a number of words and phrases with meanings that are often unclear. off shoring and e-commerce. syntactic. Most of the time when we talk or write in an ambiguous style.Ambiguity in Business Language – Communication Barrier or Effective Tool? Dagmar Sageder The importance of business English in today’s society is growing considerably.000. about $7. semantic or lexical in nature.000 refer? To the proceeds or a portion of the proceeds? We can guess that the writer meant to express that the non-profit organization would get about $7. unavoidably and undoubtedly ambiguous.. morphological. The reasons for ambiguity are various.000. and necessary for both internal and external communications." To what does $7. The selection of a process-specific representation in context is called disambiguation or ambiguity resolution” (Shütze 1997. Unintentional ambiguity occurs when a speaker or writer is unaware of the ambiguity of his sentences and utterances. The term “ambiguity” can be defined in many ways. As Alejandro Gardella. business English is the ultimate tool to prevent you from being left behind. Business English is a tool that helps global teams communicate and collaborate as one unit. human resources manager for ArcelorMittal in the Americas.“ A surface form is ambiguous with respect to a linguistic process (p) if it has several process-specific representations and the outcome of p depends on which of these representations is selected. Look at the following example: "The non-profit group is expected to get a portion of the proceeds. Phrases. Some researchers see ambiguity as a problematic or accidental property of language. 2). and the incapability of finalizing a contract. According to this view. It is considered to be a flaw or a source of misunderstanding. semantic or lexical). and. or if they allow for two or more simultaneous interpretations. critical for all levels of the organization. says: “In a world where companies are globalizing. We often distinguish intentional (also called deliberate) and unintentional ambiguity from the point of view of the addressee. a portion of the proceeds. the English language has become a global language for business communication. The need for English is pervasive. and the hearer's desire to limit the number of meanings he or she needs to choose from to understand a word (to minimize the effort in comprehension) ( Shutze 1997. Harvard Linguistics Professor George Zipf (1949) claims that the principle of least effort is making ambiguity across languages more universal. outsourcing. Communication barriers often leave businesses struggling with poor negotiations. for example. they can exist at all levels of language (phonological. but is primarily explained as a condition where information can be understood or interpreted in more than one way. morphological. 41).” 56 . Intentional and unintentional ambiguities are often an inherent part of written or oral business communication. in many ways. syntactical. as in the case of general English. all of which can be supported by the context of a work. Such reasons may be phonological. They stem from the indeterminacy of language caused by its metonymic and deictic nature (Jovanovic 1999. sentences or utterances are said to be ambiguous if they have two or more possible meanings or interpretations. According to Zipf. and the numbers of people learning business English have seen exponential growth in recent years. The reason is undoubtedly clear. An aspiring business leader or entrepreneur with a good command of the English language will definitely have a cutting edge. ambiguity arises from the opposing forces of innovation (which introduces new meanings/uses) and conservatism (which retains old meanings/ uses) (Shütze 1997. Historical linguists hypothesize that people create new meanings to enhance the expressivity and informative nature of words. the sentence should be revised to read: "The non-profit group is expected to get about $7. It can obscure meaning. 4). if they are capable of two or more denotative or connotative meanings. Due to globalization. it is apparent that business English is also.” Language is naturally ambiguous and vague. 5).000. increased financial losses. we do so unintentionally. Due to the obvious omnipresence of ambiguity in the English language. ambiguity is a compromise between the speaker's desire to limit the number of words he or she needs to choose from to express a certain meaning (to minimize the effort in production). To leave little room for misunderstanding. as well as confuse and inconvenience readers.

The second was a headline in an industry newsletter. playing a very important role in poetry and fiction. We have to claim about late delivery. German speakers also often confuse the English verbs “control” and “check. To “plead guilty” is an unambiguous and very exact legal term that means the same to all readers (Alexander 1986). German speakers. In business language. some native English speakers may have trouble understanding the sentence “Let’s meet in front of the Exchange or in the AmE Switching Office. imply a different meaning or allow space in the message for adaptability (Alexander 1986). Softening a harsh message “XYZ Corporation pleads guilty and agrees to pay $50 million. Let’s look at a few examples of such ambiguity. for example. brevity and simplicity are the three principles of effective communication. would use the verb “claim” in the following sentences: “We had to remove the advertisement. however. The aim is to make one’s point unambiguous and unequivocal. Sometimes even native English speakers lack knowledge of a particular field of the language (e.” versus “XYZ Corporation confirms $50 million settlement agreement.a phrase. hide the message’s true meaning.” For example. He may want to be vague to soften a harsh message. It can contribute to the effectiveness and richness of an artistic work.” As a result. these sentences portray two distinct meanings. In business situations. when intentional ambiguities can play an active part in business communication as well. Intentional ambiguity is generally perceived as an artistic device.” The word “claim” from their point of view means “complain. “The safety officers controlled the building.” which.” In English these words are not synonymous and cannot be used interchangeably. to an English speaker. when native German speakers attempt to speak English.” However. There are occasions. this sentence would be synonymous with saying. Cultural diversity caused by multinational mergers and acquisitions has increased in the workplace.” due to limited knowledge about telecommunications jargon. because so many people claimed about it. One factor that can often lead to the use of intentional ambiguity in business English is the author’s deliberate intention to keep his message less blatant or overt. They should then strive to avoid those mistakes. clause or word too far from the noun or pronoun it is meant to describe. “control” stems from the definition of the German word “kontrolieren. legal English).” The first sentence was a headline in a major metropolitan newspaper. in the German language.” Another factor that often leads to communication barriers in business English is misunderstanding or misinterpretation caused by limited knowledge of the language. (Alexander 1986). misunderstandings and cross-cultural communication barriers occur due to lack of knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Hiding a message’s true meaning and implying a different meaning 57 . The following example provides an easy and fun way to understand and remember what a misplaced modifier is: "The little girl stood next to the horse in the blue dress. can mean “to check something. For example. Unintentional ambiguities can definitely be considered a barrier in effective business communication. The second sentence softens the bad news by avoiding the mention of the plea of guilt. clarity.” (Alexander 1986). “The safety officers inspected the building. Speakers and writers should be aware of common mistakes in English language usage that can cause ambiguity.” To a German speaker. business terminology has been influenced by multicultural perspectives. they do not distinguish between the utterances “claim” and “complain. not blue. Different cultural backgrounds affect communication. they might attempt to say.g.This particular type of unintentional ambiguity is due to the use of a misplaced modifier . Fiction writers very often strive for ambiguity to achieve a specific but and compelling communication effect.” because in German the word “reklamieren” can also mean “to complain. A German speaker’s tendency to misuse the English verb. Such unintentional ambiguities should always be avoided. For example. however. Of course everybody knows that horses prefer red dresses. Many English speakers also don’t often understand the wider context of the language in order to fully comprehend the meaning of a passage or text. unintentional ambiguities occur also for other reasons.

1997. Stanford University.1. No. However. and as such it should be avoided or exposed and eliminated.” In Discourse & Society. Vol. Ambiguity resolution in language learning. G.” References http://www. Zipf. M. L. Allowing space for adaptability Dr. focused on the selforganization.com/m/globalbusiness/business_english Shütze. hoping that the real meaning will come through.” In Chicago Kent Law Review. They tend to want to keep most people happy (so that they get re-elected) and make as few enemies as possible.htm 58 . As Scottish Philosopher Thomas Reid said. K.” points out that the role of ambiguity in contracts becomes an important issue in the case of an undesired event or disagreement about meaning. and messages are clearly structured and less ambiguous. He argues that from a traditional point of view. a linguistics professor at the University of Vienna. there is no reason for trial. Alexander. sometimes it might become a necessary and effective communication tool due to context and/or subject matter. No 6.com/articles. Jovanovic. in his article “Pernicious Ambiguity in Contracts and Statuses. They are often used in politics.alexcommunications. Unintentional ambiguity in business language can cause inconvenience and confusion. 1949.” In Facta Universitas. contradicting the principle of complexity reduction defined by high structure (Menz 1999). 101-128. Sometimes they simply must speak or communicate cautiously for national or international safety reasons. ambiguity and decision-making in a business enterprise. Encoded language is an essence of diplomacy found. Lawrence Solan. Florian Menz. On the other hand. H.Intentional ambiguities are designed to manipulate the language and deliberately mislead the reader. if a contractual text is deemed ambiguous. meetings are more efficient when they are better prepared. Ambiguity is a very interesting and intriguing linguistic phenomenon that deserves attention.10. Ambiguity and Decision-Making in a Business Enterprise. 79 Menz. they frequently use equivocal language to say something in a sly and dubious manner. meeting participants and company leaders should maintain a degree of complexity. a trial by jury may be required to resolve the ambiguity (Solan 2004. diplomacy and advertisements. 2004. for example. Politicians are the masters of ambiguity. 859). 41 – 54 Solan. intentional ambiguity plays an important role in business English. “Pernicious ambiguity in contracts and statutes. it can serve as an efficient tool to help an author keep communication options available.[online] http://www. Business writing seminars. in a lot of speeches given by presidents of companies that have had bad financial years. Florian says that it is necessary for the participants of the meeting (and organizations in general) to adapt to the change.2. “There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words. Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort. If the contract is clear. 1999. Scientific Journal. ”’Who Am I Gonna do this with?’ Self-Organization. Of particular importance is the ambiguity used in contracts.Vol. 1999. Cambridge MA: Addison-Wesley Press. “Linguistic and Literature. arguing in his article that in some cases it is more efficient for the members of an organization to be as ambiguous and lowly structured as possible in order to keep different options (adaptability to change) available (Menz 1999). Though it is a skill that is not always admirable. Stanford. But if the environment and tone of the meeting changes so that planned preparations no longer suit the meeting’s context. F.globalenglish. Vol.M. To write intentionally in an ambiguous style is definitely a skill. Y. observation and research. In doing so. Center for the study of language and information.

English Language Teaching 59 .

The computer does not need to be the central element of the activity or provide learning content.“ Similarly. methods. and processes. electronics. Intensive use of the feature is required. “the discriminating feature must be the primary characteristic of the learning activity. The content may be on the Web or the Internet. audio. 2002. Instructors must be involved in receiving feedback from learners. It includes the delivery of content via Internet. nonformal. and more. the narrow ones apply the term exclusively to special courses using virtual learning environment. It can be formal. (Romiszowski 2004. 6) To avoid confusion. the computer and the network must hold a significant involvement in the learning activity. 3): • E-learning is mostly associated with activities involving computers and interactive networks simultaneously. informal. satellite broadcast. Online learning is associated with content readily accessible on a computer. computer-based learning.E-learning Ambiguities Eva Kaščáková Slippery Nature of Definitions Learning. running a CBT application from a file -server does not qualify as elearning.” However. CD-ROM. and enables timely instructor reaction to learners. • • • For each of these concepts. such as Web-based learning. Simply posting or broadcasting learning materials to learners is not distance learning.net/wridwref/terms. since incidental or occasional use of a characteristic feature is not sufficient to qualify for a certain type of learning. and e-mailing a teacher after taking a class on a campus is not sufficient to qualify as distance learning. usually defined as the cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge. they claim. For instance. and digital collaboration. there is no consensus in the usage of these terms. interactive TV.jwriddle. may occur with or without conscious awareness of the learner. elearning should probably serve as an umbrella term for all of the mentioned activities. Table 1 Romiszowski’s structured definition of e-learning (plus some representative examples).and videotape. or simply installed on a CD-ROM or the computer hard disk. including when the materials are packaged on CD-ROM or other media. Web-based learning is associated with learning materials delivered in a Web browser. However.html 60 . virtual classrooms. as well as enhanced by various media. including practices utilizing mobile technologies (sometimes called m-learning). Distance learning involves interaction at a distance between instructor and learners. American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) state on their website1 that: „Electronic learning is a term covering a wide set of applications and processes. see Table 1. (A) (B) INDIVIDUAL SELF-STUDY GROUP Computer-Based Instruction/ COLLABORATIVE Learning/Training (CBI/L/T) Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) 1 www. What is e-learning? There are numerous definitions of e-learning – often quite dissimilar in nature – the wide ones claim that any kind of learning that is aided by information and communication technologies (ICT) is considered e-learning. a structured definition of e-learning suggested by Romiszowski covers all the processes that involve utilization of ICT in education. intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN). Tsai and Machado tried to unveil the ambiguities surrounding learning enhanced by the utilization of ICT by suggesting the following definitions (Tsai and Machado.

ISITE Design instructional designers have a strong track record designing deep-dive web-based software training as well as extensive experience delivering virtual and face-to-face (F2F) training around the world. the telephone. is a learning delivery channel that can be delivered by phone.mb. group and individual study. field trips (both real and virtual).ostyn. and Knowledge Management channels.com/ostynglossary. 8 • • • • In his criticism of many educators’ search for the holy recipe for balanced blended learning.ca/k12/dl/wbc/wbcgloss.5 An online course that uses various methods of delivery. using WBC with a F2F class is blended learning.learnnowbc. 4 An educational formation the integrates elearning techniques including online delivery of materials through web pages. print. and face to face. e-mail. classroom instruction. and coaching. Glossaries available on the web offer numerous definitions. face-to-face instruction. Increasingly. again.html 7 www.3 An approach to learning that blends different technologies or that blends technology and other approaches in the learning process. The key is to match the training requirements with what's most suitable for the content and the audience. Instant Messaging.gov. However. Typical channels include the physical classroom. in-person discussions.syberworks.html 61 . Blackboard. hands-on experience. For example.) Blended learning is most frequently described as a combination of face to face and elearning/computer-mediated learning. there are more approaches and definitions than necessary to make the notion clear and unambiguous. the virtual classroom. print.edu. virtual classrooms. It’s clear from this list that learning delivery channels are more than technology channels.(1) ONLINE STUDY Synchronous Communication (“REAL-TIME”) Surfing the Internet. e-mail. computers. discussion lists or a Learning Management System (WebCT. online chat. web sites. chalkboard.net/wridwref/terms. Using an asynchronous mode of delivery with synchronous tools is also another example.htm 5 www.“ 2 3 www.com/services/e-learning/e-learning-glossary 8 www. overhead projectors. Morrison (Morrison 2004. online conferencing. coaching and mentoring. for example. guest speakers.htm www. 7 is the teaching and learning activities and experiences that intermingle or mix the face-to-face instruction with a myriad of tools and venues such as manipulatives for math. EPSS.com/glossary/b/b1. May include just about anything: Books. etc. He claims that: “Every enterprise has learning delivery channels—it's a question of identifying them and deciding which to use when.2 When a student attends both a classroom in a school and participates in distributed learning. software simulations.com/glossary/terms/b/ 6 www. We will analyze your training needs and provide recommendations on the training blend that's best for your organization.isitedesign. Sometimes a real-live classroom is advisable. etc. podcasting. display projectors.teach-nology.aspx 4 www. calculators. web conferences. the following are listed to illustrate the situation: • • • a combination of learning methods. or tutorials. discussion boards and/or email with traditional teaching methods including lectures. self-paced e-learning. such as e-Learning. mobile or wireless channels are also available.ca/course_finder/glossary. online self-paced instruction. 2) suggests talking about the strategic use of learning delivery channels rather than about ‘blended learning’.jwriddle. online instruction. message boards. Coaching. etc.6 e-Learning alone is not always the answer. seminars. accessing Websites to obtain information or to learn (knowledge or skill) (Following up a WebQuest)_ Chat rooms with(out) video (Electronic Whiteboards) Audio/Videoconferencing (2) OFFLINE STUDY Asynchronous Communication (“FLEXI-TIME”) Using stand-alone courseware/ Downloading materials from the Internet for later local study (LOD-learning object download) Asynchronous communication by e-mail. while other times a self-directed learning module on a PDA is ideal. online collaboration.

form the pedagogic podium is. The ability to learn and process information should not be only the means of acquiring knowledge. 186): “A teaching role that determines learner activity by directing it radially. negotiating both syllabus content and methodology with the learner.. however. Rather than occurring as flashes of insight. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. 169): “No longer simply a presenter of materials or an implementer of a method. Especially in the times when very few people have single careers and most embark on various careers in different fields throughout their productive lives. and creator of syllabus and study programmes (Hašková. Student moves along the unlimited quantity of information in a non-linear manner.” There is one important fact concerning the education process that all teachers and learners should take into consideration. so to speak. Besides know-what and know-how of performing various tasks on the job another skill is needed – know-where – where to search for relevant information (Siemens. According to Thornbury (Thornbury 2004. based on the assumption that learners can only learn from approved and appointed teachers and not from each other. The process of active incorporation of new experience / knowledge will vary among different minds. which also requires new skills and abilities (cf.” 62 . therefore. but one of the objectives of education. 2004): “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. that the most crucial aspect that determines the effectiveness of learning is the quality of the instructional design and content not the choice of channel. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve.such a close adherence to fixed prescripted roles in the classroom is detrimental to effective (and affective) learning. When knowledge. Widdowson comments on the traditional teacher/learner roles (Widdowson 2002. “Teaching doesn‘t necessarily cause learning – not in any direct way. for the teacher must serve variously as material developer. 153). Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal. and investigator of his or her own classroom. the teacher now has a role that is not only more complex but more crucial. access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses. tutor. the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. The theory emphasizes. Teacher / Learner Roles What is the teacher’s role in contemporary language learning? According to Richards. team player.” This fact is supported by the theory of constructivism. Instead of teaching grammar. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. 2004. try to provide the right conditions for grammar learning.. the teacher’s role is (Richards 1999. of course. individualistic activity. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. Siemens 2004). which believes that learning involves constructing knowledge from person’s experience or reconstructing knowledge from one person's mind by another person's mind. evaluator. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.” He even goes further to say: “. They need to continuously acquire new skills and abilities. that the process of acquiring knowledge is as important as reaching the aim (learning) itself. 151). but not known.We have to agree with Morrison. is needed. Ability and willingness to learn is the end product of the education system and not the “production method” for reaching partial goals. language learning is more than not a process of gradual approximation. Thus the collective potential that learners bring to class as a resource for learning is left unexploited. advisor. needs analyst.” Hašková lists the following new roles of a teacher in the e-learning process: consultant.

they suddenly give their original question a special meaning that translates into “Can we just copy something from the web?” Situation that follows is familiar to most teachers. Following reactions have been noted to occur frequently: • “How else should I have written it? That is exactly how I would have said it myself!” Students often believe that if they identify with the writing it does not matter that they are not identical to the writer. it had no relation to students’ language skills and class performance. it is important to bear in mind that knowing about the vast opportunities of the internet.” For some reason. texts or even native speakers online. It enables learners to find information related to specific fields of interest. or just surprisingly suspicious. Surprisingly. Figure 1 Plagiarism in students’ written assignments (in %) The extent of plagiarism ranged from omitting bibliographical references to copying the entire work. most students are tempted to look for the easiest way of solving their tasks. However. • “Sorry. They will ask a little ambiguous question: “Can we search for information on the web?” If the teacher allows them to. Statistics showed that 60% out of 50 observed students of English for International Tourism at the Technical University of Košice (TUKE) submitted written assignments that showed signs of plagiarism (see Figure 1) in spite of having been given instructions on proper use of resources and citation. They rely on the advertising slogan ideas suggesting that ‘everything is on the web’. • “This is what we are expected to do in other courses.Internet as a Source of Information The access to the Internet and information brings vast opportunities especially for the learners of foreign languages. Let’s say they have been asked to write an article about their national cuisine. especially English. Students often feel wronged if their teacher is not satisfied with a perfect piece of writing that had been copied from the web. students often doubt their teachers’ digital literacy. They all have experienced reading assignments that were surprisingly good. Perhaps students need more detailed instruction on proper use of information resources and media in relation to any of their work. surprisingly similar to one another. I didn’t think you’d find out. This situation leads the teacher to several possible solutions: 63 . why is it a problem with you?” This is something to think about.

At the beginning of the first year.” (Some students even dare to ask “And how will you ever know?” This solution requires checking the authenticity of every assignment. ICT enables teachers to focus students’ attention on specific learning objects by utilising various e-learning solutions. Such assignments involve working with information that thus becomes personalized. the task ought to require altering.) 3 Setting more complex assignments that require research of numerous resources before being able to work out the final draft. there are still a few students who will give “copy & paste” a try in their next assignment. it is not (yet) commonly used in all study groups. adding to – recasting the collected bits of information in a meaningful way to create something completely new. copies of handouts and useful links for foreign language learning. Practice and Communication Besides students’ own search for information. listening comprehension practice (time of which is limited in face-to-face classes). a few students usually complain why they have to do extra work if they have courseand workbooks. reorganizing.) 2 Zero tolerance – “No more copying for my classes! Any plagiarism will guarantee you zero points for the assignment. Most of them soon understand how helpful it is. E-learning portal of the Technical University of Košice proved efficient in providing extra information. The final listed solution worked well with a group of 3rd year students where all submitted assignments were students’ own work (See Figure 1). students convicted of plagiarism (in all other groups) had to submit new assignments. Finding the information is not enough. 64 . Extra Theory. support. Since its usage is voluntary for teachers. rewriting. Of course. interactive tests. However. since the “vast opportunities” would become neglected and the teacher’s refusal of the web resources does not guarantee that students would stop using them. Although foreign languages at non-philological faculties of the Technical University of Košice are usually taught as 90 minutes/week face-to-face courses.1 “No more surfing for my classes!” (Not the best idea. There even occurred cases when students of groups where it was not used asked another teacher for permission to visit his/her pages with useful resources. by using the e-portal outside the classroom we can create a balanced blended learning and thus maximize the quality learning time for students.

This may not be such a serious drawback of elearning used in other courses. 65 . however. is the function of communication. in case of language courses. The SWOT analysis of e-learning showed that the major threats and weaknesses are related to the isolation of the learner from the tutor and other learners. podcasts. wikis. which has opened new horizons for language learning.Figure 2 E-learning portal at TUKE Social Media for Collaboration ICT has the potential to bridge the distance and natural borders separating the learners from the country of the target language. Language is a social phenomenon. according to Vygotsky. learning a foreign language can get a little closer to the natural experience of learning the mother tongue. By using the social media that were intended for communication. However. Transforming a face-to-face language course into an e-learning course is risky. such as blogs. social contact and influencing surrounding individuals. interaction and collaboration.0 generation we have witnessed the creation of new emerging technology – social software. To turn the weaknesses and threats of technology based/aided language learning into strengths and new opportunities. RSS feeds and social bookmarking. it is essential to enhance the social aspect of foreign language learning and utilize ICT in a balanced blend with face to face learning. The primary function of language. With the Web 2. communication is both the aim and the means of learning. utilization of standard e-learning tools in foreign language acquisition has some limitations.

0 and its impact on learning (and naturally also on e-learning): „ Since 2004 the term “Web 2. but it seems that some ideas do change key aspects in the old curricula: • the Net as the platform. changes the concept of studying at any place. Most blogs are predominantly textual. allowing no comments. thus creating a collaborative environment.0” has generated a revolution on the Internet and it has developed some new ideas for Education identified as “eLearning 2. others function as more personal online diaries. or to connect to what others have written on a certain topic. which is motivating. E-learning 2.blogger. and other media related to its topic. however. They allow for comments and discussions with readers in an interactive format. They offer practical tools enabling students to create digital archives of their work and display their portfolios. enables educational institutions to enrich the learning (and e-learning) experience by shifting its focus from mere delivery of the content to its creation. A student creating a blog can use a website such as Blogger9. knowledge organization and information retrieval. In setting up a blog there is no necessity to use HTML.0. although blogs can also be placed in secured environments. images. Blogs usually have “comment” buttons that allow readers to write a reaction. and links to other blogs. • the option to choose between several devices to work on learning tasks (PDA. Blogs are easily linked and crosslinked. The role of learners thus changes from content consumers to content authors. which enables using several available templates. Blogs normally enable uploading and linking of files. • collective intelligence and rich user experiences affects the concept of authority in educational systems. etc. 1) describes the main aspects of Web 2.0”. or the multi-device oriented system. any time. The ambiguity of both terms does not allow the affirmation of a new paradigm for technology-enhanced distance education. 9 www. All reactions and comments are linked to the original text. descriptions of events. thus creating large online communities. Blog A blog (web+log) is a website. While most blogs are created and managed by individuals. A typical blog combines text.Bartolomé (2008. „ From Delivery to Creation E-learning tools have become widely accepted media for delivery of learning objects. Writers typically make rich use of hypertext to connect to resources on the Web. walking. group blogs are also possible. and videos. although some include art.com 66 . music. iPod. web pages.0. enabling them to construct their own knowledge system. computer…) seems to be a technical and not relevant question. showing the development of their foreign language skills over time. audio. with regular entries of commentaries. • tags and RSS readers allow us to revisit traditional taxonomy. Blogs are well suited to serve as personal journals for students. but that implies the option to learn at every time: while travelling. All readers can comment on what they have read. or other materials such as graphics or video. the difference between study times and other times seems to disappear. Students are aware that their work will not be read only by their teacher – their audience may be much wider. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. Some provide commentaries or news on a particular subject. usually maintained by an individual. In Web 2. photographs.

through writer. ranging from registered reader. which is also functioning in languages other than English. and page deletions must be seconded to take effect). Any visitor can read what the wiki's community has written. A wiki is a set of loosely structured hyperlinked pages that can be viewed and edited by their readers. The system expects users who are willing to follow the community’s practices and rules and are serious about working towards a common goal. i. In foreign language learning a wiki site created for/by a group of students provides an excellent collaborative and peer-to-peer learning environment. etc. By clicking on the "edit" button they are able to edit bits of the text. 10 www. Wikis allow adding. secured with password protection. Wiki sites aim to become a constantly growing repository of knowledge to be shared within the community.wikipedia. and work together on team projects. wiki sites can be also private. modifying and even deleting their contents by anyone who visits them. 12-16) This simplicity and ability to modify and delete any part of a wiki may cause many people to doubt or even reject the idea. They assume that since anyone can edit a wiki. help each other. moderator to administrator.e. There are wiki encyclopaedia projects. (Godwin-Jones 2003. Wikis are usually protected against malicious behaviour (page changes are recorded along with the identification of their author. discuss language problems.Figure 3 Website allowing for setting up blogs Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth vs. but it works vice versa as well – any incorrect data can be corrected as soon as it is identified. its content must be flawed. the most popular being Wikipedia10. This means that only invited people can become members of the wiki community and their rights may differ. More Heads are Better Than One An interesting collaborative environment we will focus our attention on is ideally suited for collaborative on-line language projects. Students can create pages together. upload pictures. Not only anyone can delete or modify information to change it into incorrect (unintentionally or on purpose).org 67 . What is more. But wiki supporters claim this is an incorrect assumption. add links. videos. correct each other’s mistakes. WikiWikiWeb (wiki wiki is Hawaiian for "quick") or wiki is collaborative in its nature.

References Bartolomé. 2008. Such activities require working with information which is thus transformed into personal knowledge.0 and New Learning Paradigms” In: elearningeuropa.com/downloads/blended_learning_holy_recipe. http://www.info/files/media/media15529. http://www. as we certainly can agree on with the theory of constructivism.pdf.Figure 4 English for International Tourism Wiki Wikis can serve also for project-based learning by giving the community a way to gather information and modify it as things change or collaborate on specific projects. “Web 2. Antonio. This. The advancements of Web 2. The role of learners thus changes from content consumers to content authors. (accessed January 2009) 68 .elearningeuropa. provided that students are given instruction on proper use of resources. 2003. should be the purpose of learning. Conclusion It is very important to provide students with a blend of various opportunities to use and learn foreign languages (regardless of the ambiguous or even vague names of the processes. The final version will be completely different from the original one as a result of getting everybody involved in collaboration.0 technologies and their meaningful utilization enable students to benefit not only from access to information but also from collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.info portal. (accessed April 2009) Morrisson.pdf. enabling them to construct their own knowledge system. Don. Search for the Holy Recipe. which conforms to the theories of constructivism and connectivism. An example idea is uploading a short text containing grammatical and/or factual mistakes and asking each student to correct anything that they consider wrong and add an extra paragraph. “Second generation” e-learning shifts its focus from mere delivery of the content to its creation by all the participants. and disputes about what is and what isn’t considered a certain type of xy-learning).morrisonco. ICT can enrich learning and enhance language practice outside the classroom.

htm. Hašková. No. E-learning. Technológia vzdelávania. Web-based Learning. Alena. Henry G. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. 2004. Nitra.org/subpage. Scott. 2003. Susanna. Robert. Paulo. 6. Romiszowski. In: Educational Technology. Online Learning. 7.Godwin-Jones. Alexander J. UKF. No. Richards. Oxford University Press. Thornbury. Vol. 1990 (Seventh printing 1999). or Distance Learning: Unveiling the Ambiguity in Current Terminology. 2004. (sixth impression 2004) How to teach Grammar.cfm?section=best_practices&article=6-1. Machado. How´s the E-learning Baby? Factors Leading to Success or Failure of an Educational Technology Innovation. http://elearnmag. Jack C. Pearson Education Limited. The Language Teaching Matrix. Virginia Commonwealth University. eLearn Volume 2002 .elearnspace. Emerging Technologies. Volume 44. 1990 (Fifth impression 2002). 2004.1. 2. Cambridge University Press. Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-line Collaboration. Issue 7 (July 2002). Aspects of Language Teaching. Language Learning & Technology. 2002. 1999.org/Articles/connectivism. Widdowson.George. Tsai. (accessed June 2008) 69 . (accessed April 2008) Siemens. www.

for example. could benefit from is that there are at least three advantages to be gained: (a) the availability of ambiguous elements (words. 212). 70 . If. Too many cooks spoil the broth. phrases. or by advertising companies. Take. although they bear a semblance of relation and do. and (c) the lessons to be learned from ambiguity: from linguistic and paralinguistic features of language to its socio-cultural context. Even grammatical structures feature an inherent ambiguity as. as well as language teachers themselves. for instance. (b) the universally true. However. They use ambiguity to persuade. Drawing on this reflection. then. ambiguous. pertaining to interpersonal language communication. however. or at least a mutually accepted direction” (Grice 1999. In fact. for instance? Indeed. It is simply to fail to specify at the level of detail that one is capable of. Ambiguity in Language Teaching/Learning Before any discussion about using ambiguity in language teaching/learning can begin. is to offer the listener none of this. why not employ it as a means of facilitating language learning. in the hands of a skilled teacher ambiguity can be a powerful and motivating tool for teaching English to speakers of other languages (the preferred term nowadays). P. as a matter of fact. to some extent. what was the actual reason for his/her departure). is to offer the listener information the latter finds relevant—but to offer it in the form of well-structured alternatives through which the hearer can sort. respectively. with four underlying maxims. the sentence “I didn’t leave because I was scared” (Bloomer. We see it exploited on virtually everyday basis—by our elected officials. cooperative efforts. leaves us at a loss as to whether the speaker did or did not leave (and if the speaker did. Grice formulated his Cooperative Principle. ambiguity can be used “against” us. Among them. desired state. the present simple tense can be used to talk about at least four different concepts: (a) the present. each of whom has their own agenda. namely tragic or comic effect. a common purpose or set of purposes. it must be made clear that ambiguity is not the same as vagueness. (c) the regularly repeated.Ambiguity as an Option to Pursue Jaroslav Marcin Introduction The British philosopher H. Many sentences heard in everyday use are. the question is: why not use it also for the benefit of those on the receiving end? In other words. Ambiguity presents itself quite readily in English. at least potentially. and thus end up producing an obscure or ambiguous utterance. somewhat overlap. For the purposes of this paper. arguably to the disadvantage—if not detriment—of the latter. Griffiths and Merrison 2005. To be vague. let us assume that “[t]o be overtly ambiguous. sentences. (1) (2) (3) I know the answer to your question. this phenomenon is not exclusively a matter of lexical units. as I am going to argue (although I do not necessarily mean to attack or hurt anyone). 452). more often than not. or even manipulate individuals. the Maxim of Manner requires that the speaker “avoid obscurity of expression” and “avoid ambiguity” (ibid. as can be seen from sentences 1-4. 78). I dare argue that ambiguity in language (speaker performance) is. and each participant recognizes in them. and he also understood that there are several reasons why the speaker might fail to meet it. a deliberate choice. and to leave the listener in a state of unstructured indecision about what has remained unsaid” (Kaufer 1983. The reason I believe this to be a suggestion language learners. without further context. Grice wrote more than 30 years ago that our talk exchanges “are characteristically. or (d) the future. which can help motivate and engage the students.. which makes them a valuable resource the teacher does not have to “fish for” too long (the examples I will be using come mainly from back issues of Readers Digest and Calvin and Hobbes). However. either by accident or design. to some degree at least. or even texts). either by accident or design. My sister goes swimming every Thursday morning. (b) the effect produced by these ambiguous elements. 79). which. Grice was aware that this requirement is one of an ideal.

or to an action repeated on a regular basis (c). Another example of a perfectly “harmless” sentence (actually an encouraging comment) turned ambiguous can be found in an episode of the (still) popular sitcom Friends. comic strips found in the dailies. this motivation to “learn for survival” may be a lot more limited. but I hear Lyme disease is open so. where English is the country’s main language and so the students are immersed in an English-speaking environment. but rather that he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped. not everybody loves Shakespeare (although. Or take the infamous kid Calvin who answers the phone: (7) Person on the phone: May I speak with your father. sentences such as “The tour of the Museum starts at 10 o’clock” can be. I hope you get it. his rival. without proper context. king of the fairies. there are two Athenians in the forest that night. understood either as referring to a specific event later in the day (d). especially to teenage/adolescent learners who so often find school boring because. These ambiguities simply “call for” being used in teaching English.e. that he will not be defeated until “great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him”). She: It’s about two o’clock. in other words. some shared cultural knowledge (2 is a proverb. The tragedy of Macbeth. “[s]chool attendance is compulsory for students. 71 . where Joey models for City Free Clinic ads: (6) Chandler: You know which one you’re gonna be? Joey: No. ambiguous statements have long been exploited by the creative minds of the English-speaking nations in genres such as tragedies and comedies performed on stage. tells us that “[s]tudents will learn more successfully if they enjoy the activities they are involved in and are interested or stimulated by the topics we (or they) bring into the classroom” (Harmer 2007. 29). you don’t need my permission! Be my guest (hangs up). reportedly. was not “born” of a woman per se. Moreover. In the case of Slovakia or any of its neighbours.. in each of these cases.” Similarly. commands his servant Puck to sprinkle the eyes of an Athenian man with the juice of a love-inducing flower but. thus creating the semblance of a “marching forest. or sitcoms and cartoons seen on TV. and proverbs reflect culturally accepted “universal truths”) . After all. Of course. which shows a man and a woman catching sun on the beach. and the content of the curriculum is almost always selected on the basis of what society—rather than the learners themselves—considers important” (Dörnyei 2001. Certainly. 123). and thus not only teaching language but teaching it more effectively. Taking it to mean what most English speakers naturally would leads Macbeth to a major misconception—that he is never to be defeated—an error of which he only becomes aware when he sees the advancing soldiers disguising themselves with tree branches. with regard to what is entailed (1 entails “You have asked a question”.(4) It’s his birthday next week. which leave us no room for further speculation). i. or because of other disambiguating elements present in the sentence (3 and 4 both feature adverbials of time. ambiguity is used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Oberon. But how about the inconspicuous ambiguity exploited in a joke found in June 1999 edition of Reader’s Digest. the meaning is immediately clear. (crosses his fingers) Chandler: Good luck. however.” and when he hears that Macduff. man. setting the scene as “Philosophical discussion in Beverly Hills”: (5) He: Sometimes I wonder what it’s about. for instance. as Dörnyei points out. rests on a seemingly unnoticeable ambiguity: a prophecy that he is to be king and that “none of woman born” can ever defeat him (or. examples like the ones above can become a useful means of motivating our students. the great truth pointed out by Jeremy Harmer. even without the need of further context. everybody loves Raymond). please? Calvin: Heck. For this reason. but this time to serve a comic purpose. as it turns out. Perhaps the motivation is slightly different in countries where English is taught as a second language (as opposed to “foreign language”). However.. so “I know” is a single temporary “action”). himself a well-experienced teacher of English.

Also. and ambiguities of use/mention. the other formed regularly from the verb “look” and the adverb “out”. I believe that for practical purposes. Syntactic ambiguity can be exemplified by the sentence “Sometimes I wake up grumpy. Both can be used as excellent examples of miscommunication where the message is incorrectly decoded. which involves. stating that “[t]his is far from an exhaustive classification of ambiguity. then. presenting an ambiguity-based joke only “cracks open the shell”. Macbeth fails to identify the figurative meaning of “Dunsinane Wood”. for one should only use a springboard if he/she is ready to dive in. these both seem a bit unsatisfactory. maintains that there are lexical. As for the individual causes of ambiguity. but we would be foolish not to look deeper inside and discover the pearl concealed within (the “pearl” in this case meaning “a piece of knowledge to give one wisdom and understanding”). Hobbes: Yes. you certainly see far from up here. in a single group. at the same time. with “push” identifiable as a polysemantic word (the concept of “exerting pressure” applies to both. or the existence of several lexical units with identical form but different meanings. it is sufficient to adopt a threefold classification. On the contrary. other times I let him sleep. colour and lustre—that can be found in ambiguous sentences (utterances. Lexical ambiguity refers to the existence of multiple senses of one lexical unit. In still other words. in fact. They can also be used to point out the type of ambiguity (in this case lexical ambiguity) and the individual causes (i. and metaphor in the latter—although really they are both two different facets of the same approach employed by language speakers). Finally. there has to be a learning goal in mind whenever we use them.” To me. consider the following examples: (8) Sign seen on a maternity-ward door: Push! Push! Push! and: (9) Calvin: I call this “lookout” hill.e. obviously. what differs is the body part exerting pressure and. the misfortunate Macbeth. ambiguities of illocution. provide an adequate substantiation for using them in classroom setting. and pragmatic. Take. syntactic. easily available to teachers. beyond the two already mentioned. refers to that type of ambiguity which stems not from different meanings/senses of the same form. it’s beautiful.” where the first clause is ambiguous (either as subject+verb+complement. or as subject+verb+object) until the moment “other times I let him sleep” is uttered and we realize the grumpy person is not the speaker themselves. metaphor. Different authors offer differing accounts of how many types of ambiguities can be found in language/communication. while the latter emphasizes them so much that it places syntactic and lexical ambiguities. etc.). for instance. for instance. polysemy. Pragmatic ambiguity can be found in: (10) Rachel: (looking for the engagement ring she has misplaced) Has anybody seen my engagement ring? Phoebe: (encouraging comment) Yeah. does not. pragmatic ambiguity relates to a further level. and “lookout” as two homonyms (possibly)—one derived from the phrasal verb “look out”. but rather from alternative ways of interpreting and understanding sentence structure. Deixis. 72 . the eventual goal of the pushing). for instance. Calvin: I call it “lookout” hill because that’s what you yell whenever we go down it. Both examples demonstrate lexical ambiguity. 281). or the result of one part of sentence qualifying as two (or more) sentence constituents. our presuppositions and inferences. conversational implicature. as the former completely disregards the pragmatic aspects of language. identifying three (basic) types of lessons to be learned from ambiguity: lexical. we can identify homonymy (also homophony and homography). Syntactic ambiguity. many such pearls—of varying size. two rather distinct (though obviously related and/or interconnected) phenomena. and politeness can be the causes of pragmatic ambiguity. There are. Bucaria (2004. syntactic. and phonological ambiguities while Kaufer (1983. ambiguities of perlocution.Lessons to Be Learned The fact that ambiguous elements of language and/or communication can be enjoyed by students of English and are. however. whose understanding of the word “born” (“having come to life”) is slightly wider than the sense intended by the prophecy (“having been delivered in a natural way”). idioms and slang as some of the most typical phenomena underlying lexical ambiguity. especially in teaching ESOL. Therefore. 210-211) identifies syntactic or lexical ambiguities (as forming one group). polysemy in the former. To illustrate this theory in terms of practical language in use. Syntactic ambiguity can be the result of one form falling in several word classes at the same time.

been borrowed from a book by Lynne Truss. who uses it to make a number of points concerning English punctuation. In other words. which gives each class a dynamic character and makes it more “palatable” to the learner. darling. By changing the direction of the voice we can make ‘Yes’ mean ‘I agree’ or ‘Perhaps it’s true’ or ‘You can’t be serious’ or ‘Wow. 61) points out: Changing our pitch in an utterance is absolutely crucial for getting our meaning across. Another example of pragmatic ambiguity.” In these sentences. our students can learn the importance of correct intonation and sentence flow through ambiguity.Or: (11) We were driving home after a party one night when my wife asked me. and leaves.357 magnums. Mostly he found . the Possibilities! Modern textbooks do a great job offering language learners an appealing blend of grammar. adolescents should be capable of more mature insights and opinions on gun use and control. 108-109). has anyone told you how handsome. Take.” “Then what gave you that idea at the party tonight.” The example of “Eats. “Honey. This is not so true of Mr.38 specials and . Mrs.. a non-native speaker of English. a plea for help is confused with boasting (10). for instance. it is essential that the point in question be made clear to our students. In this case. a rising voice or a combination of the two. and thus capable of understanding what is meant by “. with a little bit of creativity on the part of the teacher. for instance. “Eats shoots. and still be respectful. sexy and irresistible to women you are?” “No. the ambiguous material can be exploited to a greater extent.”. ambiguity can also be used to teach punctuation.e.” and “Eats. in fact. the following example: (12) My neighbour was on vacation in Miami and decided to walk the beach and gather some shells. It seems that pop culturebred audience responds well to such an impressive array of activities and exercises. and leaves” has. the ambiguity resulting perhaps from speaker’s insecurity/unfamiliarity with individual sentence constituents should be used to “point them” to the right sentence flow in the case of “Eats shoots and leaves. the ambiguous question tags we find in writing can be disambiguated using proper (rising or falling) intonation. The ambiguous word and its possible meaning should then be written on the board. “Not lately. Students should identify the ambiguous element (the word “shell”) and explain the two different meanings involved.” I replied. to help students 73 . In order to successfully use this anecdote in classroom setting. basing our judgment on the supposition that (a) males are more likely to show interest in the topic of guns. “the address Dr. can be used alone without a last name. of which language learner might be unaware.38 specials” and “. and reproach with flattery (11). you are so right’. shoots. Oh. there are several questions we (as a teacher) have to ask ourselves. is the ambiguity of address. conversational and pragmatic skills.” and (c) as opposed to younger individuals. vocabulary. In addition to these basic three types.. segmenting the sentence in the act of locution into as many (or few) segments as necessary. Therefore. Such approach can very well be used with ambiguities.” Clearly.g. shoots. we can use the anecdote above to point out lexical ambiguity. The word ‘Yes. quite readily recognizable by the native speaker. Another one of her examples gets the point across even better that punctuation does matter: “Am I looking at my dinner or the dog’s?” (although it could just as easily be “dogs’” with a final apostrophe) as compared with “Am I looking at my dinner or the dogs. can be said with a falling voice. No less important is teaching our students to observe appropriate sentence flow. for instance. might not realize that. What learner group can this ambiguity be used in? What lessons can be learned from this ambiguity and how do we go about teaching them? How can we use the punch line to set the utterance into a specific cultural context. e.’ for example. notes on culture and more. but much less obvious to the language learner? Let us say we have chosen this anecdote for a predominantly male group of adolescents. In this group. and leaves. As Harmer (2007.357 magnums. In a similar vein. (b) they are also more likely to be knowledgeable in this area. or any number of things. or Miss (Chaika 1994. Besides. i.

but at the same time. for instance. or trying to produce an intentionally ambiguous (humorous) headline.g. the teacher will elicit ambiguous words from the students.g. because of the complexity of the communication process (encoding/decoding issues. some headlines would be much more popular than others. identifying the individual parts of a gun. 141). When time is up. For those completely devoid of any interest in guns. Another option. etc. In a similar way. and “arms” themselves are potentially ambiguous words). for instance). as well as helping students to develop a certain linguistic awareness in L2. linguistic. Students could also use the Internet to browse recent newspaper headlines. on the one hand. etc.” e.) helps to clarify the meaning of a potentially ambiguous utterance. (Needless to say. the teacher will proceed to the theoretical part: He/she will ask the students to explain the difference between homonymy and polysemy. In fact. trying to avoid any ambiguity. They might become aware that language. proper context (situational.g. as a matter of fact teems with ambiguity (Robinson 1941. the omission of auxiliaries and articles. Better to ask what the person who said it meant” (Griffin 1991. “red tape”). Afterwards. “bear”. 9). where each student would try to produce a story based on the unintended meaning of these headlines. comparing headlines of articles describing the same story in different newspapers. they will be asked to identify which of the words on the board are polysemantic (the remaining ones being homonyms). is that learners’ vocabulary could be expanded. some potentially ambiguous while others clearly not. “the House”). Since the anecdote is set in Miami. and since the anecdote deals with guns. highlighting a new dimension in human communication where “[t]o wonder what a word means is to ask the wrong question. the intended meaning might not get through to the receiver. they will be given a short time to find (in pairs or small groups) other English words with multiple meanings. and to verify their answers using a dictionary. making sure they are all written on the board and that all students present are aware of the different meanings. this might also be opportune time to learn about this city. These could include connotations of Miami in the mind of a native speaker of English with a view to the series Miami Vice (or more recently CSI: Miami). Afterwards. e. Students would first be asked to identify the specifics of “headline English. It is in this way that they might start to see linguistic signs as cultural constructs. 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms could be introduced (noticing that “right”. During this activity.). socio-cultural issues (“Farmer Bill”. viewing language within the framework of interpersonal communication. further elements of socio-cultural background can be explained. in: (13) (14) (15) (16) FARMER BILL DIES IN HOUSE COUNTY OFFICIALS TO TALK RUBBISH RED TAPE HOLDS UP BRIDGE KIDS MAKE NUTRITIOUS SNACKS Or even: (17) WOMAN OFF TO JAIL FOR SEX WITH BOYS Such headlines. or conveying a dramatic impression. “revolver” and other types of guns. and discussing which work best and why. provide priceless material for introducing new phrases and idioms (“talk rubbish”. partly because very few signs “are clearly defined and do not allow for varying interpretations” (Černý and Holeš 2004. and comparing it with the notion of grammatical gender expressed in some other languages. the students would be asked to pick out the ambiguous headlines and explain the different types of ambiguities. ambiguity can be exploited to teach us so much more than a second (or foreign) language. by distinguishing between a “pistol” . possibly about a recent event. concepts they might be familiar with from L1. 50). e. students can learn that. etc. “teacher”. The class might start with a handful of newspaper headlines. ambiguous newspaper headlines (analyzed by Chiara Bucaria) might just do. along with the National Rifle Association and recent debates about this particular issue (comparing L1 and L2 cultures). students will realize that “the meaning of lexical items rests on cultural assumptions and symbolic structures in subtle but crucial ways” (Keesing 1979. regardless of whether or not they actually appeared in any newspaper. Furthermore.) Additional tasks could include asking the students to write a newspaper headline of their own. With the words in plain sight. 74 .grasp the concept and to serve as an example for the subsequent activity. Analysis of the headlines could then be followed by a short writing activity. By observing gender ambiguity in English (“speaker”. 15).

“Logic and conversation. direct method. Coupland.). Praha: Portál. Zoltán. P. 76-88. as well as into the socio-cultural background of English itself. as “things are learnt much better if both our minds and our hearts are brought into service. Richard. Harlow: Pearson. How to Teach. Černý. Elaine. Chiara. “Linguistic Knowledge and Cultural Knowledge. 1941. 75 . John. Em. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Grice. Dörnyei. H. and Andrew John Morrison. ambiguity can be used in ESOL teaching regardless of the selected method (e. 1991. Teaching and Researching Motivation. Jiří and Jan Holeš. from a purely practical point of view. 2007. Introducing Language in Use: A Coursebook. lexemes depends upon the meaning of the sentences in which they occur” (Lyons 1981. 1979. Aileen. Among its greatest advantages are that it answers the need for creativization of classroom experience. as well as the fact that English features very few inflections. “Lexical and syntactic ambiguity as a source of humor: The case of newspaper headline. 1981. In addition to “our daily” ambiguity. Roger M. Finally. for example.Conclusion Perhaps in interpersonal communication avoiding ambiguity is the desired state.). 2001. However. Chaika. A First Look at Communication Theory. Language and Linguistics: An Introduction. 52). “Ambiguity. Patrick Griffiths. ambiguity should be used in English language teaching because it creates opportunities for students to understand more about the way language functions—that. edited by A.. Understandably. providing insight into linguistic and paralinguistic features. Harmer.” In Humor 17-3: 279-309. in language teaching. Bucaria.. Rhetoric Society Keesing. Rather. if not all. Jeremy.” Quarterly 13: 209-220. Robinson. 1983.” American Anthropologist 81: 14-36. etc. Kaufer. Sémiotika. “[t]he meaning of a sentence depends upon the meaning of its constituent lexemes (.g. Most importantly. my unambiguous suggestion is that we use ambiguity to serve educational goals. London and New York: Routledge. Language: The Social Mirror. and all of the other above reasons make ambiguity an option to pursue—at least as far as teaching English is concerned. Griffin. Lyons. Javorski and N. this proposal does not present a systematic approach (other works should be considered for that). “Metaphor and Its Ties to Ambiguity and Vagueness. Engagement of this type is one of the vital ingredients for successful learning” (Harmer 2007. London: Routledge. I have argued that ambiguity can be one of the “ploys” or devices in the teaching/learning process. grammar translation. That. and the meaning of some. where its tragic and comic effect can be used to motivate students. it is even more often used by the creative types in works of art and/or popular culture. Ambiguity is convenient and readily available in English—owing to a large number of homonyms and polysemantic words. 1994. 2005. David. we can also raise learner awareness of L2. 40). 1999. 2004.” Mind 50: 140-155. 2004. Harlow: Pearson. McGraw-Hill.” In The Discourse Reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. References Bloomer. By focusing on some problematic issues.

Culture and Literature 76 .

ed. and when she died at the age of fifty-six. she left behind some 1700 poems. to such an extent that she could rightly be called the “queen ambiguist” in 19th century American poetry. Thisbe. She wrote short lyric poems. Massachusetts. all but seven unpublished. very tragical mirth. readers often find her verse enigmatic. because its description reads as follows: A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus. but because of the idiosyncrasy of her language. scene 1) The reaction of Theseus reminds us of how the human mind is constructed: when faced with ambiguity it searches for order. The poems of Emily Dickinson are cited from the following edition: Thomas H. hot ice. My paper is intended to show by what means and to what effect ambiguity works in the poems of Emily Dickinson. 186. How shall we find the concord of this discord?1 (Act V. the Duke’s choice falls on the workmen’s play. Theseus has to choose from a list which of the shows offered for entertainment to see first. Johnson. And his love. Dickinson did not achieve literary recognition during her life. It is true that she did not travel much. or perhaps more. despite the brevity of the form. in Amherst.e. a phenomenon of poetic compression. After rejecting a few. in 1886. who lived in New England. and in her 40s she withdrew from physical contact with the outside world more and more. but the common image of her as a recluse is a false myth. Emily Dickinson relies on ambiguity. on the day of his wedding. In the first quatrains of “I dwell in Possibility–” (P657)2 she clearly states it as her chief poetic ethos: I dwell in Possibility– A fairer House than Prose– More numerous of Windows– Superior–for Doors– Of Chambers as the Cedars– Impregnable of Eye– And for an Everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky– 1 2 The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare (London: Chancellor Press. Meaning in Dickinson’s poetry is communicated through indirection. 1960) 77 . lived in her parents’ house with her sister Lavinia. The duke responds to the ambiguity of the description and exclaims: Merry and tragical! Tedious and brief! That is. and wondrous strange snow. She never married. although she maintained a long term correspondence with a representative literary critic of the time. disambiguation with a need for unequivocal sense. Brown and Company. i.Intangible Referencing as a Means of Creating Ambiguity in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson Zsuzsanna Ujszászi Introduction Towards the end of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.. She had many friends. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Boston: Little . The question is whether ambiguity can be seen as Dickinson’s artistic intent and thus a relevant means of communicating significant experience. If it is intentional and an integral part of her poetic design. as well as at least two major love affairs. both male and female. and often in such an almost privately coded manner as opens ways to multiple interpretations. what is its meaning? What is the “concord of discord”? Emily Dickinson was a 19th century American poet. 1982). Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

and which. in which case the emphasis in the phrase falls on the capitalized noun. 5 John Schmit. inevitable”.1 (1993) http://www. visual form. but as it communicates feelings associated with darkness. This first type of ambiguity can be illustrated with the final four lines of “I can wade Grief–” (P252). and on the other hand both are destined to appear. in search for a meaning communicated through it. and as the following example shows. Winter Afternoons– That oppresses. Ibid. In the opening line of the poem “There’s a certain Slant of light” (P258). the former type is part of the reader’s reception. As a challenge to the readera1s expectation.”3 Later on. imagery. for example by syntactic elision. some central quality pervading every level of poetic expressiveness: emphasis. rhetorical figures. whereas the latter forms part of the poem’s meaning. syntax. however he distinguishes two types: one in which the pleasure belongs to the act of working out and understanding. once understood. The poem first claims to be about a slant of light. as Jay Rogoff points out. especially since Wordsworth. It is assumed that ambiguity in Dickinson’s poetry is intentional. 2009). destined.” Style. “’I Only Said–the Syntax–’: Elision.Major Means of Ambiguity in Dickinson’s Poetry The purpose of poets. and unlike ordinary language use. remain an intelligible unit in the mind. my paper focuses only on the second type. like Men– Give Himmaleh–[to Giants] [And] They'll carry–Him! Although Dickinson’ poetry is a treasure house of this first type of ambiguity. 27. Recoverability. 3 4 William Empson. “certain” may mean “definite but not specified”. whose business is reference and thus requires clarity. 1. 78 . 57.com/~erin/ed7. Ambiguity in the reader’s reception is usually caused by stylistic compression. After some syntactic analysis disambiguation can take place. This poem also illustrates how imagery can serve as a source of ambiguity. or. suggested by all ends and losses in nature. 6 Jay Rogoff. and another in which the ambiguity works best if it is never discovered. good poetry most often entices by deviating from everyday phrases and patterns. On the one hand the kind of slantness of light mentioned by the speaker is as difficult to define as the heaviness of the awe inspired by death. vocabulary. Seven Types of Ambiguity (London: Pimlico. the source of the simile in the final stanza (“like the Distance/On the look of Death”) becomes the emotional referent of the entire poem. which exhibit recoverability by parallelism5: Give Balm–Giants– And they'll wilt. an inherent part of the poet’s design. But internal difference. Emphasis and Imagery Meaning often depends on emphasis. is to make the familiar appear new. and it can best be detected in Dickinson’s pronominal referencing. tone. Both senses are valid. Most often ambiguity in Dickinson’s poems does not allow unambiguous decoding. “Certain Slants: Learning from Dickinson’s Oblique Precision. depending on emphasis. Syntactic elision makes the reader look at the syntax of the lines more closely and recover the missing parts.htm (accessed August 20. 2004). “death emerges as the shadowy actuality lurking precisely behind it all”6: There's a certain Slant of light. or it might also mean when emphasized “certain to occur.2 (2008): 42. and Insertion in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. and thus multiple interpretations remain possible. this may generate lexical ambiguity in a work of poetry. the language of poetry is often marked by the deliberate exploitation of ambiguity.” EDJ 12. since the poem associates the natural phenomenon of heavy light on winter afternoons with death.4 In poetry. William Empson regards ambiguity in an extended sense. like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes– Heavenly Hurt it gives us– We can find no scar. as “any verbal nuance […] which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language. and the only thing poets can rely on to achieve this is language. Often in a Dickinson poem observation of nature ends in conveying some emotional content related to a human experience associated with it. which makes the sense complete and unequivocal.cswnet..

it is impossible to decide if the dash between “furthest Spirit” and “God” indicates connection or discreteness.e.Where the Meanings. uninflected verbs. i. Dickinson’s habit of capitalizing words is partly a sign of her respect for the individual word.e. gender. whether God is included in the self’s society or the self is everything but God. Emily Dickinson: A Poet’s Grammar (Cambridge. In this poem the abrupt succession of sentences also means shifts in tense and subject almost from line to line. at the same time. i.8 7 Suzanne Juhasz. which accounts for an emotionally tense quality. the Landscape listens– Shadows–hold their breath– When it goes. omission of words. by marking a pause. ed. its claim to be distinct from God is not a rejection. but since the major point of the poem is that the self relies on itself. 'tis like the Distance On the look of Death– Unorthodoxies of Visual Form Considering Dickinson’s graphic features. etc. i.e. with all its possible implications. 8 Cristanne Miller. to lend emphasis to words.” in Approaches to Teaching Dickinson’s Poetry. are– None may teach it–Any– 'Tis the Seal Despair– An imperial affliction Sent us of the Air– When it comes. namely. The ambiguity offers two contradictory definitions of the self’s relationship to God. when controlling syntactic relations. Investigating the syntax of “My Life had stood” (P754) Miller defines parataxis as “disjunctive or coordinate linking of ideas where information is presented sequentially. Omission of logical links leads to suspense. as Suzanne Juhasz states.: Harvard University Press. 31. are among the chief creators of ambiguity. or especially of a poem. like in parataxis. where as a result the statement missing definite closure leaves the reading open to multiple implications of meaning. Mass. The dash contributes to ambiguity also when it occurs at the end of a sentence.) have been the focus of extended studies by Cristanne Miller and Brita Lindberg-Seyersted. Robin Riley Fast and Christine Mack Gordon (New York: The Modern Language Association of America. the two most conspicuous visual peculiarities of Dickinson’s style. without hierarchical conjunction”. also an instrument to underscore rhythm and. 87-88. 1989). and multiple meaning. which functions as a substitute for almost all of the other marks. 1987). connected with “and”. Besides a number of other effects. “Reading doubly: Dickinson. where the poet defines the crowd constituted by the self: Suffice Us–for a Crowd– Ourself–and Rectitude– And that Assembly–not far off From furthest Spirit–God– Here. 79 . the dash promotes doubling of meaning by blurring syntactic relations.7 Idiosyncratic Syntax Dickinson’s disruptions of conventional syntax (missing causal/temporal relations. imitative of the poem’s sense. with an invitation to multiplicity of meaning. Thus the alternative readings extend our understanding and together form a more complete picture. or to syntactic doubling. which allows a freedom of interpretation. Another physical feature of Dickinson’s poetry is the frequent uses of the dash. capitalization and the frequent uses of the dash. who regard the syntactic idiosyncrasies as structurally symbolic. Dickinson’s most characteristic type of non-recoverable deletion is to omit phrases providing the logical links between consecutive statements or between stanzas. using inverted phrase order. and at the same time it is also like an instruction for the reader to take the word imaginatively. like in the concluding verse of “On a Columnar Self–” (P789).

a line can equally continue the previous thought.Syntactic doubling. or ignorance and perhaps undisturbed indifference? Daring Word Combinations Although her poems were not prepared for publication and thus cannot always be regarded as authoritative texts. though slight shifts of tone occur in a poem. which is marked by the verbs and adjectives. Cautious. For a poet who “dwells in possibility” the conception of the poem itself must be an indefinite. survived in differing fair copies and these textual variants provide evidence not only how important for her the choice of “the words to every thought” (P581) was.e. The variants are 9 10 Empson. her need for ambiguity. occurs when “lines form an interpenetrating and. her intention not to decide between variant possibilities. 50. To what effect does ambiguity work here? The syntactic inter-changeability seems to suggest identification between the speaker and her object of description. and thus they show. there is a puzzling absence of explicit connection between the two structural units.. but the first part focuses on the effect while the second part expands the reader’s view to some general truth: He fumbles at your Soul As Players at the Keys Before they drop full Music on– He stuns you by degrees– Prepares your brittle Nature For the Ethereal Blow By fainter Hammers–Further heard– Then nearer–Then so slow. ibid. as it were. as it were. 80 . Your Breath has time to straighten– Your Brain–to bubble Cool– Deals–One–imperial–Thunderbolt– That scalps your naked Soul– When Winds take Forests in their Paws– The Universe–is still– The poem’s masterful regularity of form resembles a Shakespearean sonnet. they are impossible to account for. a means of poetic compression. almost stoic. ibid.10 Shifts in Tone When unexpected.. which can be either the speaker or the subject of the poem. full of emotional intensity. Empson’s second type of ambiguity. or start a new one which goes on in the next line. i. whereas the tone of the concluding part is impersonal and tranquil. the bird. but also that her poems originated in cumulative possibilities of meaning. 38.e. like in “The Bird came down the Walk” (P328): He stirred his Velvet Head [stanza division] Like one in danger.”9 i. leaves it open to interpretation how the two parts are related and what the stillness of the universe means: solidity and inertial resistance due to its vastness. Several of her poems. Both parts describe an action. and thus create ambiguity. Dickinson edited her poems and most of them exist in finished form. However. In the main part of “He fumbles at your Soul” (P315) the tone is personal and dynamic. the bird. unfinished act. which allows the reader to regard the final part as a couplet communicating the point. I offered him a Crumb The middle line here forms a double link with the preceding and the following line. however. and this deletion. Miller. fluid unity. thus the interpretation hinges on “one”.

Readings in Literary Criticism. “fleshless chant”.. she aims to present each word in “italic”. 98. “broaden the possibilities for what any single choice might mean. Richard H. Consequently the poet’s vision of the world often effects intrusion of one quality/emotion/fact on another and a constant simultaneity of opposites in the poems. although a means of compression and a quality produced by the language of the text itself. “sumptuous” destitution.most often approximate synonyms.g. including her sister Lavinia. or rather. or as Wells puts it. (P1417) Wonder–is not precisely Knowing And not precisely Knowing not– A beautiful but bleak condition He has not lived who has not felt– (P1331) If things may not be understood and cannot be believed. 47. Rupp (Coral Gables. frost–“blond assassin”. Any resolution of ambiguity needs the support of the larger context. During Dickinson’s lifetime there were religious revivals in Amherst.. Florida: University of Miami Press.13 These word combinations are striking because the words constituting them belong to different vocabularies or to different etymological or other linguistic categories. and in “Its Amber Revelation/Exhilarate–Debase–” (P552). and many of her friends as well as relatives. ed. Karl Keller regards the oxymoron. 11 12 Ibid. as Miller states. angels–“sapphire fellows”. where the impact of sunset on the mind is described. “alabaster zest”. converted. but also in joining words with opposing meanings to form a new union and thereby defining a special quality. Henry W. they can only be wondered at. she also speaks of a “pile” of wind. In a typical oxymoron two opposing terms make one sensation. 81 .” in Critics on Emily Dickinson. which she employs with remarkable pointedness. He believes that “the oxymoron served as the main language structure for the poet’s sense of the indecipherable ambiguity of existence. the macrostructure of the poetic corpus. certainly cannot be resolved from the text alone. she often changes parts of speech and invents daring word combinations with great inventiveness: mountains are called “purple territories”. to reconstitute reality as ambiguity. as Dickinson’s poetic means of representing the richness of reality.”14 In Dickinson’s oxymora alternatives are juxtaposed without offering a choice in order to undercut certainty. 1979). bold formation. what perception of reality by the poet? Ambiguity of this type. Wells. The Only Kangaroo among the Beauty: Emily Dickinson and America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.”11 Dickinson believed in the power of the individual word. like in “’Tis so appalling–it exhilarates–” (P281). the author’s biography and the cultural environment. A Rhetorical Figure – the Oxymoron Dickinson delights not only in possibilities provided by synonyms and not only in joining words belonging to differing lexical fields. using a term common in Dickinson’s poetry. 13 Ibid. e. she uses “orchestra” as a verb. “The Exact Word. “seamless company”. which describes the speaker’s reaction to death. Dickinson however could not but accept uncertainty as the only certainty and this is the view of the world reflected in her poems: How Human Nature dotes On what it can’t detect. 132. “russetly”. This is seen by Keller as Dickinson’s attempt to define. noon–“parlour of the day”. What is the meaning of ambiguity produced by the frequent use of oxymora. mostly because they are not used in their common context. sunlit meadows–“meadows of majesty”. what reality is mirrored here. 1972). a flower’s “unobtrusive” face. 95. Dickinson delights in rare words. and a consistent effort can be carried on to try and define the subjective experience. Poetic words are suggestive by surprising the reader as unusual. and coins words. beyond the meanings that these figures of speech carry within the individual poems? As literature is imitative of reality. 14 Karl Keller. which. which is simultaneity of reference.12 The poetic word or phrase differs from the non-poetic in that the former is rich in implications. The unique brevity of her poems in itself lends emphasis to each word she uses. but she also resorts to various means to give her words a poetic luminousness.

i. “The Love a Life can show Below” (P673) gives a description of the love of a “Life Below” in terms of opposites: ’Tis this–invites–appals–endows– Flits–glimmers–proves–dissolves– Returns–suggests–convicts–enchants– Then–flings in Paradise– Dickinson’s “Compound Vision” enabled her to see contrasting qualities of the same thing simultaneously. Intangible Pronominal Referencing Dickinson frequently uses pronouns of unclear reference. “I gained it so” (P359). the threshold being Death.12) In Dickinson’s “The Admirations–and Contempts–of time–” (P906) the moment of dying. unspecified tormentor. the sense of equilibrium. the sequence of opposing terms is devised to create one sensation. unity made up of opposites. is described as one providing the true perspective of existence: a “Convex–and Concave Witness–” which “Reorganizes Estimate”. This vision originated in her profound awareness of the link between the finite and the infinite. dimly. and neither of the readings can be chosen as the only valid interpretation. where the power of the infinite allows the finite to be seen in true light. as in P531 “We dream–it is good we are dreaming–”: We dream–it is good we are dreaming– It would hurt us–were we awake– But since it is playing–kill us The first “it” is a non-specific grammatical subject. Ibid. Now I know only in part. although unspecified.16 This latter sense is supported by the third line. therefore most widely discussed poem in this category is “My Life had stood–a Loaded Gun–” (P754): My Life had stood–a Loaded Gun– In Corners–till a Day The Owner passed–identified– And carried Me away– And now We roam in Sovereign Woods– And now We hunt the Doe– 15 16 Miller. instead. but the second “it” may either stand for the condition of being awake. or as it is said in Paul: “… now we see in a mirror. yet specific.. “The first day’s night had come” (P410). ibid. One of the most riddling. in this “it” there is a suggestion of some ominous. we learn about the psychic states that they generate and which the poems re-enact. without feeling compelled to make a choice. where “it” is without an antecedent. and in such case “Poet” is a synecdoche. It seems to Dickinson that the truly authentic perspective is one with an angle wide enough to include opposing qualities: “The Finite–furnished/With the Infinite–”.e. but then we will see face to face”. as in “It was not Death” (P510). “It struck me every Day–” (P362 ).15 There are poems in which shifts between non-specific and definite uses of “it” create ambiguity. or it refers to a figure unknown to the reader but present to the speaker. it would hurt us if we were awake. The identity of these pronouns and “things” is never unfolded. “If I may have it when it’s dead” (P577) and “He fumbles at your soul” (P315). then I will know fully…” (1 Corinthians 13. “That” might mean “the fact that” or may refer back to “this”.. 81. “’Twas like a Maelstrom. as Miller points out. 78-79. 82 . More interesting are those poems in which the lack of reference for “it” or “the thing” or “he” takes on thematic significance.In the following long oxymoron. A classic example is in “This was a Poet–It is that” (P448): This was a Poet–It is that Distills amazing sense From ordinary Meanings– Here “this” may either refer to the text of the poem. a meeting point of time and eternity. with a notch” (P414) . However.

until God decided to use him. 17 Cynthia G. the intangible nature of the reference itself also must have a significance. as he died on the cross. the Destroyer and Avenger who employs death as his agent. who is hidden. Cynthia Wolff interprets P754 on the level of the transcendental: the speaker is Death and “He” is the Saviour. “and now…”. 83 . The paradox however is decipherable in a transcendental plane as follows: Christ can be subjected to death and still destroy death. Although Christ may triumph over death. Without–the power to die– The diverse interpretations of “My Life had stood–a Loaded Gun–” (P754) centre round the following three aspects: transcendental. This angel had always existed and had always been capable of performing his eventual task. which is a senseless statement on the literal level. although it examines the poem in a biblical context alone. The last stanza says that both the owner and the gun live longer. a violent act. Emily Dickinson (Reading. therefore does not allow direct identification.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. he became the “Angel of Death” and could begin the relentless process of annihilation that all men and women must submit to. Mass. Death “may” live longer than Christ. In the poem death happens as an effect of killing. his singular role had not been “identified” and he had to wait like “a Loaded Gun/In Corners”. Wolff. with the resolution of the paradox in it. where death is figured as an angel with a special assignment (Samuel. yet Christ “must” live longer than Death. but he is also one and the same as the Father. Interpretation in a Transcendental Aspect Assuming that Dickinson’s riddling pronominal references relate to God. 24:15-17).”17 An interpretation of this kind sounds logical and convincing. death also acts as an instrument of Christ’s will. Wolff claims. 443-444. and what is most appalling in Dickinson’s poem is that this agent of God enjoys his job. cultural and psychological. 1988). However. In the poet’s view Christ is the God-man who came to save man from death. The test of any interpretation of the poem is the concluding quatrain. “and when at night…”. The relentlessness of the drive towards death is emphasized by the anaphoric lines: “and carried…”. “and every time…”. aimfulfilment of hunting with a shotgun. “and do I smile. is not this biblical truth. The focus of the poem. which can perhaps be perceived more clearly after considering wider contexts. without any attempt to support it by references to Dickinson’s other poems of a similar view or to the poet’s letters and readings. as the righteous cannot be raised from their low graves unless Christ first vanquishes Death. such cordial light Upon the Valley glow– It is as a Vesuvian face Had let its pleasure through– And when at Night–Our good Day done– I guard My Master's Head– ’Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s Deep Pillow–to have shared– To foe of His–I’m deadly foe – None stir the second time– On whom I lay a Yellow Eye– Or an emphatic Thumb– Though I than He–may longer live He longer must–than I– For I have but the power to kill. however.And every time I speak for Him– The Mountains straight reply– And do I smile. Not to mention the problem that although the identity of “He” and “I” are crucial for any particular interpretation. This interpretation of Wolff is further justified by reference to the Old Testament. Once chosen for his mission.

They hunt the Doe. which is suggested by phrases that indicate the pleasure which the speaker gains from hunting: “smiling Vesuvian face” and “none stir the second time”. The Gun contains a kind of energy capable of rousing echoes in mountains and lighting up the valleys. 77-79. an object. a muse. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press.22 Sharon Cameron believes that the central image. in whose presence the deadly vocabulary of the poet is activated. 25-39. perhaps even monstrous. since it is the Gun who speaks for him. “Vesuvius at Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson. her life had known only inertia. and sees herself as split not between anything so simple as “masculine’” and “feminine” identity. and He/Owner/Master functions as a catalyst. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. but between the hunter. The “Owner” is the poet and the gun is a kind of Keatsian “Genius of Poetry”. the capacity to die. This autonomous power is a poet’s. deadly pursuits. They consider the Gun emblematic of autonomous power.21 Interpretations ignoring the feminine vs.20 When examined in the light of Jungian psychology. “My Worthiness is all my Doubt–” (P751). who speaks with Vesuvian intensity. on a submission of her womanhood to the internalized masculine principle. In the last quatrain. living only when it speaks/kills. Joan Kirkby states. 122-124. 21 Albert Gelpi. i. needs and potentialities which have been identified culturally and psychologically with the masculine. ed. Feminist scholars place P754 in the category of poems on marriage. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. as Dickinson exposes the woman’s position as a form of non-being: she cannot die because she is not alive. and interpret the speaker as wife and the Master/Owner as husband in 19th century North-American patriarchal society. 22 Robert Weisbuch. The Madwoman in the Attic. i. 608. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. But all the time she knew she was something other and more. “Corners” (not a corner!). in her identification with him. just an instrument of the Master. admittedly masculine. “Emily Dickinson and the Deerslayer.e. 1991). The enraged poet turns upon that passive and suffering Doe in herself and hunts her down. masculine aspect focus on qualities more universal. the woman is a loaded gun that dwells in corners until she is given identity by male nomination and is carried away. the poem is read by Albert Gelpi as an assertion of masculine artistic freedom.Interpretation in a Cultural and Psychological Aspect Interpretations in this group all focus on the poet’s psyche.e. It is a critique.” in Shakespear’s Sisters. condemned to remain inactive until the hunter/the owner takes possession of it. attains masculine authority over the Doe.19 Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar also explicate the poem in terms of the feminine and the masculine. Emily Dickinson (London: Macmillan Education Ltd. which is the test of any interpretation. so the woman is complicit in acts of violence against her own sex and in maintaining male authority: her subservience gives him power. paradoxically. which is traditionally a metaphor for a beloved woman or woman in love in English poetry. qualities. Adrienne Rich states that in P754 the poet perceives herself as a lethal weapon. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. i. They regard the poem as a critique of the male-identified woman who has achieved power by complicity with male power. i.e.18 More complex are the interpretations that combine a cultural aspect with the psychological. and the Gun. which controls the process of growth. essential. transcendence at the cost of freedom or freedom at the cost of meaning. yet also possibly unacceptable. 1979). she is carried away by a new form of subservience: she is used for the purpose he appoints. ed. Full of hidden power. standing neglected in tight places. 2000). on her being carried away by her own Master. may or may not be obliged to live. 1975). yet also a human person. “Title divine–is mine!” (P1072) and “My life closed twice before its close–” (P1732). being human. In patriarchal society a woman is subjected to assigned roles. 84 . Adrienne Rich. but feminist criticism of Dickinson emphasizes the cultural aspect more than the rest. The Master. Thus the Gun is a metaphor for the enraged poet. creative and powerful self. Inhumanly energized by rage and flame. nothingness and self-realization through subservience. the dilemma of power and identity. However. willing being. 1979). life 18 19 Joan Kirkby. 99-121. it is the gun that will have the last word.” in Shakespeare’s Sisters. 20 Sandra M. and in his humanity the Master has the power. the Gun has but the power to kill. Robert Weisbuch sees the subject of the poem as relationship between power and freedom.. such as “Doubt Me! My Dim Companion!” (P275).e. Dickinson sees the chances of fulfilment in her relationship to the animus figure (the masculine aspect of the woman’s psyche – a Jungian term). though still on the basis of the cultural approach of feminist scholars. a metaphor for the timid female who rose to patriarchal requirements. confined places. Her identification happened. whereas the Gun. “The World–stands–solemner– to me–” (P493). an active. it is also its owner’s defender against the “foe”. “He” is an image symbolic of certain aspects of the poet’s own personality. Till he came. must live.

Is there any other way?”25 The image of language in poetry as having destructive power is consistent with the Gun image in P754. forms part of knowing. when claimed. where ambiguity forms part of the poem’s meaning. integrating also the aspects of the poetic corpus and the author’s biography. 217. which. 2009). I know that is poetry. a personified abstraction. and it is also about the relentless “need for definition. The speaker imagines herself immortal in order to find protection from violence. but rather to present the subjective experience which it evokes. Dickinson’s poems with tangible pronominal referencing assert subjective experience as the only certainty. Indefiniteness in Dickinson’s poetry indirectly communicates this drama in life. wanting to make possible multiple interpretations and opportunities of perception. “‘A Loaded Gun’: Dickinson and the Dialectic of Rage.as a loaded gun belonging to someone else.437. but what cannot be put in words and cannot even be in human consciousness. David Porter. commentators are desperate to infer the hidden and find out about the external aspect of the experience communicated in the poem. What she focuses on instead is how belonging to “Him” feels and what it causes. meaning in her poems relies on context more heavily than meaning with other poets: on the context of the biography. to displace the 23 Sharon Cameron. goes off. memory and individual in “That sacred Closet when you sweep–” (P1273). her other verses and other writings. “A word dropped careless on a page” (P1261) and “A word made flesh is seldom” (P1651). All this leads the reader to see that the Gun in P754 is the emblem of Dickinson’s inordinate power of language and of her undefined life. If art represents reality. David Porter concludes that the semiotic message of the poem lies in its very indefiniteness: in the failure of identity. contribute to a richer understanding of a poem with oblique reference? A study of the poetic corpus and the biography reveals to the reader what power of the word Dickinson believed in. where a line in the second stanza (“And every time I speak for Him–”) makes it clear that it is the instrument of language. Dickinson: The Modern Idiom (Cambridge. The Master is the world and the gun is one’s power. it seems worth doing in a complex. and the ambiguity in the poems mirrors the poet’s own uncertainty concerning the ultimate source of human existence. to similar images in Dickinson’s poetry. and this is all the more so in Dickinson’s case.24 Dickinson’s pronouns will always allow multiple interpretations. and life as rage. The poet might have been especially wary of naming the referent if it belonged to the transcendental. is about identity conceived of as violence. news and writer in “How News must feel when travelling” (P1319). Because of their indirectness and indeterminacy. Coming to life involves accepting the power and inescapable burden of doing violence wherever one is and to whomever one encounters. 93. as it is by itself an act of identification and recognition. multifaceted manner. the experience that significance is to be found not in what is said. It is always context that makes sense unequivocal. and it is also testified by her famous definition of poetry. It becomes active when the Master identifies it and takes it with him.” PMLA. Applying a name to a phenomenon would mean defining it with a certainty that the richness and mysteriousness of the world do not seem to allow Dickinson to do. Mass. She always ascribed terrible power to language in poetry. It is as though Emily Dickinson deliberately controlled the reader’s interpretation. a world whose identity is shadowy and is a projection of the force against which one fights. Naming. as the sense of language as autonomous power is a central idea in some of her poems: “A word is dead” (P1212). How can a more complex contextual approach. Porter examines the poetic corpus and relates the image of the Gun. with the second major type. as well as of the culture she lived in. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off. Since the speaker probably knows from her own experience whom “He” refers to. the richer and the more complex the interpreted meaning. its independent life for good or ill”.com/Poems/DickinsonDefinitionPoetry.23 What accounts for this diversity of interpretation? What is the meaning of ambiguity here? How can concord of discord be found? In contrast to the first type of ambiguity. 1981). as violence turned upon the world can be returned by it. what reality is mirrored here? Obviously there is a certain sense behind the avoidance of naming the referent in P754. Porter believes that the poem is about Dickinson’s “sense of language as autonomous power. If this is worth doing.3 (1978): 423. I know that is poetry. there is no need for her to use a name and give external identification. images of personified instruments in separation from their original actors: knives and wielder in “She dealt her pretty words like Blades–” (P479). the void at the centre of being. where the ambiguity appears in the reader’s reception and passes when the immediate linguistic context is consulted. 25 http://www. Dickinson’s aim is obviously not to describe the external world. it is a reflection of the absence of firm meaning.wisdomportal.html (accessed June 21.: Harvard University Press. These are the only way I know it. the more diverse the context consulted. physical or transcendental. 24 85 . given to Higginson when he visited her in August 1870: “If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me. It is against or for the world that one does battle.

: Harvard University Press.” Style.: Harvard University Press. Sandra M. Rogoff. Porter. Keller. Dickinson: The Modern Idiom. 86 . ambiguity which endures becomes enriched. Jay. Rich. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. and multiple meaning. contextual explication is the centrality of the theme of receiving identity in Dickinson’s poetry. Wells. Albert. http://www. Conclusion Ambiguity of pronominal referencing can be a major means of communicating the poet’s most essential message. It is macro-structural contextual investigation that is found a reliable source to reveal significance in ambiguity of this type. London: Macmillan Education Ltd. 1991. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. EDJ. “’I only said–the Syntax–’: Elision. Miller. Gelpi. Rupp.affliction of spontaneity. 1989 . Cristanne. 2008. ibid. 85-94. References Cameron.htm (accessed August 20. Lindberg-Seyersted. 1987. “Emily Dickinson and the Deerslayer. Juhasz. Coral Gables. Suzanne. edited by Richard H.3 423. 2004. gender. requires more than an imaginative act on the part of the reader or commentator. 93. 99-121. 1979. “He found my Being–set it up–” (P603) and “I heard. Readings in Literary Criticism. and cannot be deciphered linguistically. Cambridge.1979.”27 Still another aspect supporting this complex. 1968.” In Shakespeare’s Sisters. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination. Seven Types of Ambiguity.” In Shakespeare’s Sisters. as it is a phenomenon of utmost compression. and Susan Gubar. 1979.” In Critics on Emily Dickinson. “The Exact Word. Gilbert. 1978. 2000. 26 27 Porter.437. edited by Robin Riley Fast and Christine Mack Gordon. Joan. 2009). “A Loaded Gun”: Dickinson and the Dialectic of Rage. and when I try to organize. John. where context helps find unequivocal sense.2: 39-54. 209-218. Certain Slants: Learning from Dickinson’s Oblique Precision. Mass. Adrienne. Kirkby. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. David. Unlike some other means of indirection. Brita. and cannot rule myself. The Only Kangaroo among the Beauty: Emily Dickinson and America. and thus unequivocal sense is simply excluded. the meaning communicated through this kind of ambiguity. PMLA.theatlantic. William. 2009). 1972. e. edited by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.com/unbound/poetry/emilyd/edletter. more complex and more diverse in meaning if its larger context is consulted. London: Pimlico.. http://www.com/~erin/ed7. New Haven: Yale University Press. Sharon.. from the text alone. Mass. Recoverability and Insertion in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. Florida: University of Miami Press.g. Schmit. search for the authority that will confer identity seems justified in light of the poet’s correspondence with Higginson. Emily Dickinson. The Madwoman in the Attic. 1981. 12. Empson.html (accessed June 21. Uppsala: Almquist and Wiksells.” In Approaches to Teaching Dickinson’s Poetry. Henry W. 93-98. Karl. “The World–stands–solemner–to me–” (P493).cswnet.”26 The view that this poem deals with the dilemma of instrument and purpose. described herself as an explosive and being without organization or authority: “I had no monarch in my life. edited by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. 27. as if I had no Ear” (P1039). She wrote she had no Monarch in her life. Unlike with simple ambiguities. “Reading doubly: Dickinson. Emily Dickinson: A Poet’s Grammar. The Voice of the Poet: Aspects of Style in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson.1 (1993): 106-125. my little force explodes and leaves me bare and charred. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. Cambridge. “Vesuvius at Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson. 122-134.

Cynthia G.The Holy Bible. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. 1982. Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Robert. 1975. 1988. The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare.World Bible Publishers. Reading. Wolff. London: Chancellor Press.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Mass. The New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Weisbuch. Emily Dickinson. 87 .

and it discusses WHAT is presented. Chain of Fire (1989).is one of the most popular current children’s literature authors focusing on political problems. The second aspect explores the ways HOW is politics presented.) Being politically active as a student. Since the analysed short story collection belongs to the postcolonial literature for children. social unrests and hatred. etc) who focus on specific political problems. modern children´s literature often pushes politics forward as its thematic concept. There are several authors of children´s literature in English (Peter Dickinson. started writing children’s books besides being still politically active in the Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. The objection that mixing multicultural literature with political fiction is extremely far-fetched is a vague one. racial discrimination and the problems of migration. Naidoo depicts the problems through the eyes of children (both black and white) and all her stories are inspired by her experience of a child growing up in the apartheid South Africa. Meja Mwangi. wars.Ambiguity of the Political Fiction for Children – Analysing Beverly Naidoo’s Out of Bounds Mária Kiššová It is true that many books of contemporary children’s and juvenile literature written in English reflect and depict serious issues including political and social problems. For us. Her novel for children The Other Side of Truth (2000) was awarded the Carnegie Medal and the Nestle Smarties Silver Medal in 2000. Many of the above mentioned authors deal particularly with the politics of postcolonial experience. and it focuses on the ambiguity of a political standpoint of each particular work.if political issues (WHAT is presented) are not too unfamiliar and difficult to comprehend for children . in which educated young people would be equally aware of their present and the past cultural heritage. its function in the paper is to highlight the position of the author whose skin colour puts her to the colonised scale of politics. it is important to suggest two aspects of the analysis – both examining ambiguity from different viewpoints. the issues hardly related to the fiction traditionally oriented either towards education or entertainment. No Turning Back (1998). political fiction and namely postcolonial fiction and fiction about cultural encounters are closely linked. Among her well-known books for children belong Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story (1985). The depiction of the marginalised and oppressed groups as the recent trend in children’s literature has also been rooted in the modified social concept of a child and in loosening boundaries of the suitable or the taboo topics in children´s literature. It has already been suggested that modern children´s literature brings a lot of politics and political ideas.is that while in the past politics was rather in the background of the stories. The analysis of the short story collection Out of Bounds will focus on two ambiguous issues/ questions which political fiction for children appeals for. Fourteen acclaimed children´s literature authors such as Theresa Breslin. We may say that one of the key challenges of the modern era of globalisation and massive cultural migration is to prepare children for the life in multicultural society. the collection of short stories Out of Bounds (2001) and Burn My Heart (2007). What seems to be different – if we compare children´s literature of the past and the present . There are two basic questions concerning ambiguity of political fiction for children. published by Amnesty International) supports the trend. After her studies in Britain Naidoo has become a teacher. Naidoo joined the resistance to the politics of South African apartheid and before moving to exile in England she had spent eight weeks in jail. Ibtisan Barakat. A very recent publication of the short story collection Free? Stories Celebrating Human Rights (2009. Gillian Cross. She presents political and social problems such as terrorism. Beverly Naidoo – the author of the collection analysed in the paper .is given by the 88 . David Almond. however. We strongly perceive them to be related as the postcolonial fiction – the main field of our analysis – originates right from the cultural clash between the political players of the colonizer and the colonised. 174) This is also the consequence of the global world in which problems are being reported and spread by the media all around the world which makes people more aware of them. racial violence and purges. The answer to the question . Eoin Coifer. (Suggesting the colour of Beverly Naidoo might not be politically correct. while in others politics is a major factor strongly influencing lives of characters. Naidoo is a white South African born in Johannesburg in 1943. In some of her works. Pat Pinsent adds that the ‘foregrounding of marginalised groups appears to result from a more widely embracing understanding and empathy with the underprivileged’ (2005. Her fiction for children deals with serious and current political topics including racism and the consequences of discriminating laws such as oppression. the first asks if this type of serious fiction is suitable for children. Margaret Mahy and others use human rights as the linking political theme in the collection. political matters are just the background for the story.

” To mark further political and historical references in the collection. a White person. 74). Kingsley´s Westward Ho!. Typical for this type of fiction are mainly the unquestioned racial hierarchy. Population Registration Act accepted in 1950. The Abolition of Passes Act from 1952 or Mandela’s fight for freedom) and short stories in the book. 1994 – when South Africa holds its first free elections and finally 1995 – when schools had to be opened for all children regardless their skin colour.. With her use of serious political issues as the backbone of the stories she claims that children are mature enough to understand and comprehend them. Naidoo emphasizes educative and informative function of her stories. too. Bob Dixon makes his analysis more challenging showing that even in – one would say altogether ´innocent´ book in terms of political references . but does not include a person. Two editions of the book – the original United States edition of 1964 and the first British edition slightly differ. The use of author’s notes and explanations in Out of Bounds makes complicated problems of politics understandable and provides the reader with the background which helps the overall text comprehension. In the foreword of Out of Bounds the 1984 Nobel Prize Winner for Peace Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu and Beverly Naidoo both emphasize the educative significance of the stories. Archbishop Tutu claims here that “this record is important so that we South Africans can never with any degree of credibility deny that we could reach such depths of depravity”.to explore the terrible damage that racism does to people’s relationships with each other as well as their own potential to imagine and create alternative. Naidoo emphasises the strong educative and informative function of her literary works and when the author was interviewed on her needs and reasons to write about the South African experience. and then the head would follow .with questions. Bob Dixon in Catching Them Young 2 – Political Ideas in Children´s Fiction (1977) makes a few interesting observations on postcolonial aspects found in children´s literature which does not discuss post-colonialism as such. With the seriousness of the topics discussed one must take the perception and the knowledge of politics of a child reader into consideration. Starting with the 18th century The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe he shows how the 19th century became “the heyday of the imperial tradition in children´s literature.” There are voices of adult political reasoning in the collection as well. Ballantyne´s Coral Island and Kipling´s Stalky & Co show the typical elements of colonial politics taking sides of the oppressor. in the introduction Naidoo quotes a political document – to be exact the law which once defined a white person – focusing on its absurdity: “A ‘White’ person means a person who in appearance obviously is.” (ibid.g. If we glance at the history of children´s literature there are many cases which proved that politics .as well as children internationally . Let us quote some fascinating Dixon´s observations: 89 . They are read not to entertain but to think critically about the world around. 79) Since then children´s fiction has shown colonial exploitation and its ´ideological justification´ perceived today as ethically unacceptable (ibid. clashes with other imperial powers and rather stereotypical portrayal of the slave characters. The Playground would be just a story about the first coloured girl attending school for whites. In this case the educative function of political fiction for children is emphasized. I knew it was important first to touch the heart.or rather political standpoints – are difficult to avoid for the author who naturally belongs to the specific cultural and political milieu (though the story itself had been thematically very far from politics).. interdependent futures. there is a Time-line across Apartheid which follows the stories and provides essential links between major political events (e. I would like to feel that my South African fiction can provide a space for young South Africans .author in a straightforward way. Without the reference. The second ambiguity of political fiction for children relates to the way the opposing political parties are (re)presented by the author. For instance.Roald Dahl´s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the echoes of colonialism still resonate. In other words the author claims that children should read about problems the oppressed and marginalised children in other countries face so they know about them and learn from them as well. It is interesting how the analyses of works such as Morryat´s Masterman Ready. With the Time-line we find more detailed background with three years connected with the story: 1990 – when Nelson Mandela is released after twenty-seven years in prison. the country with the history deeply affected by its colonial past. Naidoo highlights the importance of knowledge about the country which she had to flee from. although in appearance obviously a White person. or who is generally accepted as. The second blueprint of colonialism (after 1880) comes with The Voyages of Dr Doolittle by Lofting. including my own two children who were born in exile. a strong impact on religion. who. is generally accepted as a Coloured person. here in England. Children´s literature has been politically motivated since its early beginnings so one may presume that modern political fiction may not be clear of questionable political references. Using specific references. she noticed: “I wanted to talk to children directly.

a black boy is beaten. When Caroline’s mother has some loathing remarks for Janey again. Her experience tells her that the natives are nice people and she likes Janey. Once.” (ibid. the children exclaim. they wouldn’t let him live with us!’ (ibid. I found them in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before. Pygmies they are! Imported from Africa!´ ´Now. it is not her who shall be severely punished. There is a struggle within Lily. ‘What about you being polite about Janey?’ But I didn’t. When the birthday comes.at the time when introduced apartheid laws worsen the position of the coloured and the black. Lily.has to go to the Pass Office because he has been caught without an important document to legitimize himself. too fragile faced with powerful Venter.. in the game. the Peters family has to move to Coronationville. Veronica befriends the twins Marika and Piet and the eldest Anton. There is panic at school and parents come to take children home being afraid that the natives may attack the school. In The Noose. childhood dreams often disappear in the grim realities. three thousand in all.. on first seeing the Oompa-Loompas. There is no time for childhood dreams any more. set in 1955.“In those earlier editions. ´Right!. black-and-white characters. One Day set in Johannesburg in 1960 presents a white six-year-old girl Lily whose parents help black people. The contents of the stories will show that Naidoo emphasizes the values of friendship. Lily’s classmates know that something strange is going on in Lily´s family and she has the only friend Caroline at school. 45) Janey’s brother’s child Busi is shot during the protest against the passes which are to control the natives. the birthday present has a bitter flavour. she is terribly frightened of being caught. however. equality and tolerance as the key issues in inter-racial relations among children and adults. However. 37) The boy feels that he may easily lose his father so even though he gets the wished Lone Ranger’s outfit. Mr Peters . However. Venter’s adult cruelty towards an innocent black child is then even more striking and shocking. The story One Day. Lily stays silent when Caroline’s mother is referring to a black servant Janey and she feels guilty about it: ‘I should have said. Caroline shouts angrily: ‘Stop it. her African maid a lot. a Dutch man who resembling Wilde´s Selfish Giant ‘ran one of the biggest orange estates in the area and everyone knew that he threatened to shoot any trespasser on his land like he shot baboons. Lily’s thoughts again reveal her burning with anger when she cannot express what she feels and oppose the adult view. unlike either of the other editions. they were much worse for Africans. Since Jo’burg shall be cleaned from other than white families. Both children are caught.instead of buying son’s present . The Van Reenen children may not be fully aware of dangers and cruelty of their bullying which they consider a game. Seven stories tracing the political history of apartheid in South Africa starting with 1948 and ending with 2000 thus serve as an example of modern trends in children´s fiction focusing on political problems. On the other hand she realizes that it makes her awkward in other people’s eyes. The dare obliges her to pick the flowers from Meneer Venter’s garden. a ten-year-old boy dreams of a strongly wished birthday present of a cowboy outfit. The family know and the boy realizes: ‘however bad things were for Coloured people.´ In the original edition. The story centres on a ten-year-old Veronica Martin who lives with her parents in Johannesburg. if you are labelled as ‘coloured’ in the 1955 Jo’burg. the town just for Coloureds. At the Pass Office he is said not to be registered as ‘coloured’ anymore and shall be recorded as ‘African’ which is a much worse official status. The family come to stay for the holiday in a small cottage let out by the Dutch family of the Van Reenens. ´Their skin is almost black!´(not rosy-white´) and Wonka explains. I wanted Caroline to be my friend. 112) Then what about modern political fiction which IS about politics? One would inevitably expect clichés in terms of one-sidedness. A ten-year-old girl realizes the cruelty and injustice of the adult world around her. neither “Africa” nor “Pygmies”are mentioned in the Penguin edition and nor are Wonka´s original details of the immigrant or guest-workers given: ´I brought them over from Africa myself – the whole tribe of them. the Oompa-Loompas are illustrated as being black. Politically correct language as the one ethically acceptable prevails in modern fiction for children.. The closer look at the collection of short stories Out of Bounds with the subtitle Stories of Conflict and Hope will map the presentation of children of different cultural and racial background by the author who “would have potentially been a member of a hegemonic group” (Pinsent 2005. There is a strong contrast between Lily and Caroline.’ (Naidoo 2001.’ (ibid. 6) When Veronica hears Venter’s shouts. and hopes for the happy-child end... Even with her horrible parents. but while white Veronica leaves freely. Lily! You’ll give me nightmares! My mom doesn’t let me 90 . The Dare is a story about cruelty and injustice of both children and adults. (…) If the Boers said Pa was an African. Like Veronica. but a black boy whose mischief is not any worse than hers. Lily leaves with Caroline and her mother. The Dare is set in 1948 . children make Veronica to do a dare – which is a sort of a test she has to do in order to be still their group member. Lily knows and admits that the suffering of the natives is unjust while Caroline ignores the problem following her mother’s opinion. but she is still unable to oppose. Lily feels that Caroline’s mother does not like black people and does not like Lily as well. When Lily wants to tell her about Busi. 185).

The story ends with Rohan’s decision to keep the story secret from the parents knowing that they would not accept Solani as his new friend.. she was proud of them! She would tell Ma all about it and give her the leaflet herself.listen to anything like that – she knows what I’m like. Paradoxically.just a few years younger than Williams – to be his full-time obedient servant. perhaps to carry on fighting… Well. like the white boy galloping around the garden. This is evident. 77) Esi has been fascinated by The Gun which he has to dust in the room of the farm owner for a very long time. Problems which white children face take their childhood away and they learn about the absurdity of racial discrimination and oppression. I would have wanted to show it off straight away to Omar and Billy.’ (ibid. A boy in the Noose quickly loses his birthday happiness and joy of the present. One Day.. they do not want their childhood/ comfortable safety of their life been taken from them. Her cousin Esther may have escaped. but unfortunately.’ (ibid. When Nandi’s friend Esther – who is an active protester . In Naidoo’s fiction children face problems of adults. In consequence. Rohan first hesitates but then decides to help carry water with Solani to his squatters’ district. At once Veronica understands that she is too weak to oppose it. and her childhood.set in 1976 . Proud and arrogant Williams expects Esi . the gun disappears because Mackay . Mackay comes to his land just from time to time for a break from the work as a director at a large mining company. Though. The seventh story called Out of Bounds takes place in 2000. Esi starts to rebel. but takes the gun and flees to become one of the rebels. stays silent and does not confess to her mischief to the farmer. However. I suddenly felt much older. The Playground is set in 1995 and describes an important change in the South African society when ´rainbow schools´ appeared. when he is 15. wealthier families refuse squatters’ demands for money.. Seeing the poverty and misery of the people. which was immediately followed by the strong protests of the white parents´ majority against the black children being in the class with white children. However. and now her granny. for instance. the girl manages the school troubles without the parental/ adult help. An 11-year-old Nandi is afraid to give the student protest leaflet – in which students ask parents to join the revolt – to her mum. they learn about the harshness and bitterness of the world and gradually find themselves involved in the machinery of the racial hatred and oppression. the poor squatter boy called Solani comes to ask for water explaining that his mother is giving birth.assumes that it is too big temptation for the native mind of Esi. In the fourth story The Typewriter . Rohan learns about the strong contrast between his and Solani’s life. in fact she is racially discriminated and bullied psychically and physically because of her skin colour. Nandi gets the mission to take and hide Esther’s typewriter which would reveal her involvement in the rebellion. Too old for a childish outfit. Lily. Khulu is caught and imprisoned.the farmer . what is vitally important is her discovery of the truth – a sort of bitter epiphany which she has to experience to change her worldview. Veronica from The Dare is scared to death when she thinks the farmer shouts at her. Three hours had changed all that. still more distressing is to find out that only the white skin and family background make her superior to the black boy and she faces the absurdity of racism openly for the first time in her life. too: ‘If I had been given the suit in the morning. The life at the farm changes with the arrival of Mackay’s future son-in-law. her only friend.the black students of the Soweto high school protest against the laws forbidding them to learn in their mother tongue and refuse to attend classes. Experiencing this. it is Esi’s father who looks after the farm and knows more about the land than the owner himself. As it is natural for him. in the case of Lily in One Day. Nandi sees the seriousness of the affair. An Indian Rohan lives with the parents not far from the segregated squatters. first. As things get more complicated it is Esther’s grandmother Khulu who takes the typewriter. She first regrets not having parents like other children: ‘why couldn’t Mommy 91 . Rosa is the first 11-year-old black girl to attend the school for the white. food or water. in 1985. Nandi changes and at the end she claims not to be afraid to tell her mother about the leaflet any more. after her white friend Hennie takes Rose´s side. I would have been crazy with joy.’ (ibid. One day after Rohan’s parents leave. The poverty of the squatters tempts them into stealing and robbing and they are perceived in the neighbourhood as the unwanted community of beggars. The turning point comes when Williams accidentally wounds himself on the walk with Esi who decides not to help. later they often change and understand the inevitability to change their opinions. 40) He is terrified when he learns that his father might be separated from the family just because of the laws someone creates artificially. 55) The conflict puts an end to the friendship and the story is full of the loss: Lily loses her father. However. Rosa feels unwanted and abandoned. Now.has to flee. She realizes that values and ideas which students fight for are worth the suffering it may bring: ‘The police had taken her friends.

The Noose. older readers may unquestionably learn a lot as well. Children become aware of politics and political decisions with their consequences. For instance. It can be summarized that children in Naidoo’s fiction are fragile. often prove to be stronger than adults and superior to them in the politics of tolerance and acceptance of others. The Playground. she fights against silence which is still a stronger force in her when she opposes Caroline’s mother’s prejudiced view on the native Janey: ‘Why didn’t I tell them that Janey had looked after me since I was a baby? Why didn’t I tell them that she was one of the safest people I knew? Instead I let Caroline tell me about her new compendium of games. Through the use of specific political standpoint – based on values of understanding and tolerance . The analysed collection is thus the example of an attempt to raise political awareness of modern child readers. Esi. o excitement of that kind at all. In Out of Bounds both boys realize that parents are not prepared to face their ’coloured’ friendship and they decide to hide it. In this way children are more radical and rebellious. Teenage Fiction: Realism. London: Pluto Press. they decide to oppose adults who often lack enthusiasm and will to protest. Some of them rebel just in silence – in their minds as they understand the depravity of the oppressive adult world. but they are not passive. Nandi in The Typewriter learns that what she does is not a part of the child game anymore: ‘When she had acted as ‘lookout’ for their meetings. does not accept passivity and submission of his father and leaves everything behind so that he can fight for the ideas he believes in. Contemporary Problem Novels. 1977. she had known it was something serious. 57) Later. Though some characters seem to be passive.. Though children in Naidoo’s stories are weak in the physical sense. But what she had to do this time contained no enjoyment.the loss of friendship. characters become politically active. but their role is less important in comparison to children. we may conclude that the current trend in children´s literature highlights universal human values and politically correct writing. Physical weakness might also suggest fragility of the character.and Daddy be like the other parents who don’t bother with politics and don’t care if things aren’t fair? What about me and Mark? Don’t we matter?’ (ibid. even more politically conscious than adults. 1996. Was that true friendship at all? Children in Naidoo’s stories often have to face problems on their own which serves as a proof or a test of their ability to oppose and manage the trouble. Even more importantly. The Gun). B. Catching Them Young 1 – Sex. they open the eyes of adults who had already given up the protest as pointless. B. but at school it is the girl who has to fight the battle for the acceptance. regardless the definite consequence . Romances. The subtitle of the collection ´Stories of conflict and hope’ suggests that Naidoo’s stories are not light-hearted reading. The danger was all around now. London: Pluto Press. International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature. it is Rosa’s mother who makes Rosa attend the school. Out of Bounds) or adults are too weak and unable to oppose the general opportunistic view (The Dare. 51) Finally she finds the strength and says Caroline what she really feels. Eccleshare. J. 67) Despite the danger. Amnesty International. Of course.’ (ibid. they are strong in their mental effort to oppose the oppression. adults are opposing political oppression. there are also some exceptions. Dixon. In some short stories.. Catching Them Young 2 – Political Ideas in Children’s Fiction.’ (ibid. in The Playground. London & New York: Routledge. Although she had known there was danger.. They are disturbing and we do think that though being addressed primarily to children and young adults. it was also exciting. she decides to join the protest. There is very little or no help from the side of adults – mostly parents . London: Walker Books. It is often children who show how to face and solve problems. References: Dixon. P. In: Hunt.the stories in Out of Bounds want to prove that history is not made by adults only but it is and has been significantly changed by children as well. 1977.either because they are not present (The Typewriter. their rebellion just takes different – and often not visible forms. 92 . yet it had still been a bit like a game. Free? Stories Celebrating Human Rights. similarly. In terms of ambiguity of such literature. Race and Class in Children’s Fiction. 2009.

D. B. London: Penguin Books. Naidoo. Zipes. 191 . New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Naidoo. 2005. London & New York: Routledge. pp. P. New Historicism and Migration: New Historical Novels. P. 2005. 2005. Pinsent. New York. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Postmodernism. K. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. P. London: Penguin Books. The paper is a part of the KEGA3/6468/08 project: Teaching Intercultural Awareness through Literature and Cultural Studies. The Other Side of Truth. Modern children’s literature. Language. K. Modern children’s literature. 93 . eds. In: Reynolds. 2001. In: Reynolds. 2005. 173 – 190. The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature. pp. Pinsent.208. 1996. K. International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature. Modern children’s literature. 2000. Out of Bounds. J. B. Genres and Issues: The Socially Committed Novel. Reynolds..Hunt.

despite Bergam’s seemingly straightforward statement. concludes with an unclosed statement that “floats” directly into the opening sentence of the novel and establishes a never-ending reading circle. Apparently. (It was one of Achebe’s main aims to write the book from African point of view. however. one has to state the obvious facts that are crucial to the comprehension of the novel’s ending. as established by the traditions and customs of his tribe. 229) Joyce’s masterpiece Finnegan’s Wake. Without going deep into the well-known plot. The modern era. so valued and respected by the main hero. John Fowles’ narrator offers the reader two different endings – a romantic reunion of Charles and Sarah and a non-happy ending where they take different paths (not to mention the traditional Victorian ending he provides in the middle of the book). which he saw breaking up and falling apart. a more profound meaning. establishes his dominant position in the text quite obviously. the marital problems of the two professors. Despite Okonkwo’s fiery temper and occasional aggressiveness. Needless to say.) The clash between European and African perspectives and the “civilizing mission” that the colonialists attempt to impose upon the people of Umuofia inevitably lead to Okonkwo’s tragic death. the death of the hero” (1997). i. Moreover. Despite his personal achievements. Yet. Okonkwo’s connection to and his honest interest in Umuofia is indisputable. Even though he is a strong-minded and ambitious individual. life of his community is disrupted by the arrival of European missionaries. Thus. David Lodge’s novel Changing Places freezes one of the main characters in mid-gesture without giving him the opportunity to finish his sentence. 173) Obierika’s statement explaining the desperate situation to Okonkwo after his arrival from exile seems to acquire. schematic characters. threatens its whole existence and slowly leads to its disintegration. almost idyllic.” (1992. is not resolved at all and as Lodge admitted some of his readers “have complained […] that they felt cheated by it. it is crucial to situate the main protagonist in the social context. There is almost nothing left to say about the book since it has been analyzed and interpreted endlessly. even during his forced exile. are of utter importance to Okonkwo. At first sight. “with the least ambiguous of all endings. 13). Okonkwo acts without hesitation and attempts “to rouse his people to action” (Begam 1997). and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia. The reader is encouraged to choose whatever ending s/he likes best and is thus entrusted with an illusionary power to determine the course of events. It is precisely the presence of the Europeans in Umuofia that stirs the calm waters of the whole community and inevitably leads to Okonkwo’s downfall. Okonkwo’s rise and reputation that is “associated with the supernatural” (Friesen 2006) and celebrated in the opening passages of the novel would not be possible without his hard work. Achebe’s novel represents a direct response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and is therefore concerned with the damaging effects of European colonialism on indigenous African communities. focusing on the story from Okonkwo’s perspective. One cannot dissociate him from the life and people living in his village. the writers usually preferred to resolve the conflicts in a rather exhausting manner. the narrative strategy. The consequent rejection of local customs and traditions by certain parts of the community. ambition and strong will. So when the peaceful. Since “his whole life was dominated by fear.Provoking Discussion: Ambiguity as a Vitalizing Literary Tool Simona Hevešiová At the end of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. who had so unaccountably become soft like women. leaving no space for the reader to participate in this part of the creative process. the ending of the novel. Okonkwo “mourned for the clan. In the Victorian era. on the other hand. his leadership and heroic attributes are never questioned. still posits numerous questions and therefore challenges the readers’ understanding of the whole text.e. The book centers on the story of a great warrior and a respected man Okonkwo living in the village of Umuofia that has been transformed by the arrival of European missionaries. Chinua Achebe’s most discussed novel Things Fall Apart concludes. the representatives of postcolonial literature did not fail to take this chance either. one of the main conflicts of the novel. 94 . in words of Richard Bergam. in terms of what is going to happen. his positive qualities seem to prevail while the Europeans appear as flat. the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 2006. his path to prosperity and social recognition was not easy.” (Achebe 2006. with its open endings and unfinished statements provides the readership with new challenges. yet Okonkwo’s determination paid off. the necessity of communal life and collective well-being. of course. There is a clear dividing line between the protagonist and the antagonist leaving no space for confusions.

not 95 . provides even three distinct endings or “three different ways of reading the events that conclude the novel” (1997).“Our own men and our sons have joined the ranks of the stranger.) In this case. it means ‘the voice’). The first possible reading is derived “from an African perspective.” (ibid. however. which follows the mode of tragedy as its point of departure. Okara depicts an African society in transformation. seems to be more compatible with the heroic characteristics that are attributed to the main protagonist in the course of the story. two diametrically different readings of the story. mentally unstable individuals what is. in fact. Yet this very idea may again lead to another interpretation.) Whatever author’s intention. equating Okonkwo’s demise with the collapse of Igbo culture. cultural implications of suicide that are valid in Igbo culture. Alan R Friesen claims that “Okonkwo’s suicide was an affirmative act. this act of desperation is somehow attributed to weaker. The uncertainty related to Okonkwo’s personal victory or defeat. Likewise. Okonkwo’s suicide is commented on by the District Commissioner whose perspective on these events is utterly external. The novel’s ambiguity resides then specifically in its enigmatic ending. he believes that his authority and power entitle him to make judgments about it that he assumes are correct. In most of the European countries. There seem to be no hints in the text either (concerning Okonkwo’s behaviour or potential suicidal thoughts) that would prepare the reader for such a dramatic turn. seems to overlook the cultural context. In this view then. Secondly. 197) . The third reading is related to Achebe’s novel No longer at ease which Begam takes as a sequel to Things Fall Apart but which is outside our scope in this paper.in few words that would. there are voices which call for a different reading of the conclusion and point to other interpretative possibilities. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us?” (ibid. that is.” (ibid. in his opinion. it is clear that by interweaving this ambiguous action into the story. Most critics associate Okonkwo’s decision to end his life with personal defeat. In this view. a conscious decision to promote a positive ideal instead of an act of failure. Thus. but he does not develop the thought further. frustration and failure and regard it as a natural consequence of his tragic fate. the motif of self-sacrifice appears in the experimental novel of another Nigerian writer Gabriel Okara who is more known for his fine poetry. Yet.” (ibid. Simply said. the novel and the characters it has produced live on outside the book.. His death then symbolizes the collective suicide of the Igbo people who refused to protect their own culture and submitted to the influence of the British. the hero and great leader. not Okonkwo’s case as I have demonstrated earlier. The novel gains a new dimension since it lives its own life (or lives) in the mind of the reader after s/he finishes the book. Friesen’s arguments demonstrate that Okonkwo “is lamenting the village’s turn away from their traditional customs” (ibid. and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. Achebe succeeded in arousing a vivid discussion among his readers. Begam’s analysis. Okolo (translated. Okonkwo.e. Okonkwo’s voluntary death may be regarded as an act of self-sacrifice “designed to immortalize the traditions that his people are so close to throwing away. which strictly prohibits acts of selfdestruction” (Begam 1997). Nevertheless. the transformation again caused by the influence of European colonialists that endangers genuine African heritage. The suicide is heavily ironized by this character since he summarizes this tragic event – a story of a man “who had killed a messenger and hanged himself” (Achebe 2006.) in the book he intends to write. He asserts that suicide is “a profound violation of Igbo law. transforms into an insignificant nonentity.) His hope was probably to provoke discussion among his people about their traditions.) Friesen supports his thesis with a detailed analysis of the concept of fate or chi as it manifests itself in Okonkwo’s life. […] he says that our customs are bad. “Okonkwo’s suicide can be seen as his last attempt to remind the Igbo people of their culture and values in the face of impending colonization. The main protagonist of his novel The Voice. the main protagonist “has come to personify the destiny of his community” (ibid. forces the readers to investigate textual and cultural territories that might hold some answers to their questions. 166-7) Okonkwo’s suicide that concludes the novel will definitely come as shock to some readers. i. Even though the Commissioner has no knowledge of the Igbo community and its culture. That is why it is so difficult to interpret this enigmatic conclusion since there are several possibilities how to read it. Yet what he finds there does not correspond to his idea of a well-functioning community. The Europeans are.) and acquires a mythical quality. create “a reasonable paragraph” (ibid. returns to his native town of Amatu after completing his studies. evidently. customs and their importance. One of them belongs to Richard Begam who.” (2006) This thesis opens up a completely different reading of the whole novel which. in his essay Achebe’s sense of an ending: history and tragedy in Things Fall Apart. By making it clear that suicide represents the worst act in Igbo culture and is considered not only a crime against the individual but a crime against the village as well.

the ambiguous it transforms into a universal concept that is shared by all people and all nations. an intricate yet rewarding web of diverse paths is created. References Achebe. So let it be without a name. Ashcroft et al. 23) But unlike in Okonkwo’s case.e. There are no exclusions or limitations. Threatening thus the position of the elders. personality. he endangers their authority and therefore becomes a social outcast. the most ambiguous aspect of the novel is Okolo’s search for something that he simply names it. i. 42) Okara does not provide any clues nor does he explain the meaning of this word directly. materialism and hypocrisy which Okolo attempts to fight with his voice and his words. This ambiguous concept lies at the core of the whole novel. As the main protagonist states in one part of the novel: “Names bring divisions and divisions. the leaders of Okolo’s town (personified by Chief Izongo) have submitted to European values. It is only then that one may appreciate the real profit of Okara’s narrative strategy. 112) Or in the words of Arthur Ravenscroft: “To name your ‘meaning of life’ too specifically is to mark it off from other ‘meanings’ which have much in common with it. these ambiguous concepts prove to enlarge the novels’ scope by not limiting its message or audience in a particular way and thus contribute to the effectiveness of the work. the reader thus realizes that despite different social and cultural background and a potentially exotic setting of the novel. for example. Okara “draws upon some of the linguistic characteristics of Ijaw” in order to “break into the inner consciousness of his characters” (Ravenscroft. The word inside (or insides). it simply differs in its form.” (8) By acknowledging that everyone “has a meaning of life to himself” (Okara 1986. London: Penguin Books. Such a subtle handling of language helps readers to step into the characters’ minds and follow their thinking process as if expressed in their native language. so it is upon the reader to decipher it from the context using his/her intuition primarily. similarly to Okonkwo. yet there is a good reason for this conscious obscurity. Things Fall Apart. The desire to find it becomes Okolo’s main goal so it seems rather surprising that Okara does not specify what that it is. intellectual perception. What is. both novels exemplify that the usage of ambiguous motifs or concepts prove to be vitalizing for the whole text. strife. understanding. (2005. Okolo’s self-sacrifice that concludes the novel may be perceived rather as a conscious act which the reader anticipates to certain extent. self-referentiality. mind. Despite these clashes. he is trying to arouse people from passivity and lethargy. however much it may differ in outward shape from others’ ways. The mood of the novel and a number of hints interwoven into the text clearly foreshadow this tragic ending. He does not intend to persuade everyone that his way of life is the best one. etc. Nevertheless. more interesting is Okara’s ambiguous usage of certain words and expressions. “[…] those who are earnest in their adherence to a morally valuable way of life. however. have a good deal in common with the others. In conclusion. 17). intellectuality. what seem to be of great importance to him are the quality.” (Okara 1986. let it be nameless…” (Okara 1986. Similarly to Achebe’s novel. heart. s/he can easily identify with Okolo’s struggles and persuasion. 8) In this view. however. 111).” (Ravenscroft.present in the story. determination and zealousness with which people follow their ideals. that his “chest was not strong and he had no shadow. 14. no other specifications as to what the meaning of life might be are provided. name only few possibilities of the word’s understanding. As the chapters unfold. and so to create divisions and strife. Instead of direct explanations or straightforward plot development. 96 . is probably the most frequently used word in the text and it becomes quite obvious that its meaning changes due to the context it is used in. the reader eventually comes to realize that Okolo’s concept of it stands for the meaning of life. He boldly questions the principles according to which his neighbours live and. Okolo situates the root of the conflict not in the diversity of peoples’ ideas and desires but in the way people pursue them. Chinua 2006. unusual word formation and word order strike the reader immediately. This ambiguous concept that is located at the core of the novel functions as a unifying element that engages readers from different cultural or social spectrums alike. Moreover. The most noticeable aspect of the novel is definitely the language that it is written in. Rumours spread saying that something is wrong with him. he is rather advocating a forbearing approach that would simply accept and tolerate this natural inclination of people to different things. it is merely what they have left behind that causes the tension among the inhabitants. At the end of the novel. Nonetheless. an unwanted citizen whom Izongo discredits whenever possible. The interpretative possibilities that are offered in this way only activate the reader and force him/her into further analysis or investigation of the textual material. outlook on life. The disrupted syntax. Okolo’s quest may seem a little bit vague and strange.

http://www. Introduction to The Voice. New York: Africana Publishing Company.Ashcroft. 4. 2006.chicagomanualofstyle. Friesen.php/pct/article/viewArticle/453 Lodge. This publication is the result of the project KEGA 3/6468/08 Vyučovanie interkultúrneho povedomia cez literatúru a kultúrne štúdiá (Teaching intercultural awareness through literature and cultural studies). Richard.org/index. 1997. David. 1992. The Empire Writes Back. 2005. 2006.'. Studies in the Novel. “Okonkwo’s Suicide as an Affirmative Act: Do Things Really Fall Apart?” In: Postcolonial Text. Arthur. http://postcolonial. 1-21. 97 . Bill et al. New York: Africana Publishing Company. Ravenscroft.html. London/New York: Routledge Begam. Okara. by Gabriel Okara. 2. Achebe's sense of an ending: history and tragedy in 'Things Fall Apart. Alan R. Vol. The Art of Fiction. London: Penguin Books.org/tools_citationguide. The Voice. Gabriel 1986. No.

Cunning is a trait which Lecter shares with his famous namesake. In Peter Hutchings’s opinion. who observed a striking difference between Hannibal. whilst his name ties him to ancient times. H (Hannibal). who seems to be both the most civilized and the most savage figure in the books. was an excellent psychiatrist. so do the active killers in the series. The opposing tendencies buried in his name were also commented upon by Karen Mann (1996). on the surface. a mindset he had to recover” (RD 57). a passive observer. 367). confined for life in the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. it is not written upon the body (the only nod Harris makes towards this tradition is to put a sixth finger on Lecter’s left hand (SL 14). He had been caught by Will Graham. 54). dehumanised and alienated society” (1996. 98 . Harris’s series comprises four novels thus far. All quotes from these primary texts are from the editions listed in the Reference section. are no longer easy to discern. Until Hannibal. all cement his bond with the past. deceiving everyone. written in 1981. they are incomprehensible. which suggests a reader. 91). SL (The Silence of the Lambs). and we fear our inability to identify them among our ranks. average person (unlike the other two killers in the series). “There was an opinion he wanted.The Ambiguity of Hannibal Lecter’s Evil Korinna Csetényi In this paper. It is not just Lecter who. he lived a very active social life. usually very distinct in the case of detective and horror fiction. the figure’s popularity (especially in the cinema) can be seen as “symptomatic of an increasingly violent. he is already behind bars. he symbolizes an apex of Western culture. strangest or scariest character since Hannibal Lecter. which clearly marks him as the Other). He has become a point of reference. their seeming lack of motive. Serial killers occupy a prominent place in the collective psyche. as pointed out by Linda Holland-Toll (2001. I intend to unravel some of the mystery surrounding this figure. claiming that he belongs to two different worlds at the same time: his profession (a psychiatrist) connects him firmly to the modern world (though we might recall that Freud joked about the analyst as “cannibal” (Creed 2004. he was not an inconspicuous. The demarcation lines. in which Lecter makes his debut. as pointed out by Richard Bleiler (2007. and we often find critics praising a new novel’s protagonist as the most terrifying. The Carthaginian general of the same name was renowned for his bravery and is considered to have been a master of military tactics (some historians also surmise that he may have been a cannibal (Gregory 2002. an active hero and warrior. Sort of made a girl’s fur crackle” (H 352). suffice it to remember his ingenious escape from his cell. As Judith Halberstam remarks. his immense knowledge of Renaissance culture. Barbara Creed calls Lecter a “hybrid figure” (2004. thus assuming a new identity. One of the feats of the Lecter novels. inspiring many works of both fiction and non-fiction. and Harris’s various descriptions of Lecter as Giotto (H 297) or as “a figure in a medieval tapestry” (H 330). What is his secret? Why is he so immensely popular? Why are we drawn to his personality. the postmodern monster is no longer the “hideous other”: a human has become the locus of horror with his careful construction of “the facade of the normal” (1995. even though he is a ruthless killer – a man whose pulse rate remains steady even while ripping out someone’s tongue? I propose to shed some light on these contradictions and the attraction he exerts on characters in the books and on readers alike. the first being Red Dragon. 200)). literature and music. They are extremely frightening because of the seeming randomness of their choice of victims. an FBI profiler. Harris’s works are abbreviated as follows: RD (Red Dragon). In the case of Lecter. I examine the infamous protagonist of Thomas Harris’s novels – Hannibal. A brilliant scholar. when he draped a dead policeman’s face upon his own. medicine. who sees Matthew Arnold’s thesis of culture equalling civilization crumble to dust. The paradox presents itself immediately: the monster-catcher calls for the assistance of the monster himself. When we meet him for the first time. appears absolutely normal. and the envy of both men and women because of his charm. hence. who comes to visit Lecter to consult him regarding a serial killer he is trying to track down. organized gatherings (where he served delicacies containing human flesh). 1 In the course of this paper. 101)). wit. A very strange view he needed to share. absolutely singular. His being “interested in medieval things” (H 365)1. and Lecter. the Cannibal. good manners and culture. is the blurring of the line between the detective and the killer. no serial killer had reached such an iconic status in popular culture. monstrosity no longer bears an external sign. 201). knowledgeable about art. The clash between his savagery (his habitual consumption of human flesh) and his cultural polish provokes a deep unease in the reader. One of his acquaintances describes him in the following way: “He was an extraordinarily charming man. 162). In fact.

this process takes its toll psychologically. 30). She is often appraised by the male characters because of her good looks. which is why he chose early retirement after capturing Lecter. whatever. “He can assume your point of view. looks at the victims’ rooms with eyes that see differently from those of her male colleagues. Lecter is clearly aware of his resemblance to the man who captured him. Graham is aware of the danger posed to the stability of his self. the serial killer in Red Dragon. sickened by the assumption that he shares the mindset of a dangerous psychopath. projection. 30) that Lecter represents the failure of Arnold’s thesis. Graham has “an uncomfortable gift” (RD 152) – the uncanny ability to place himself in the position of the killer. 140). he is “tarred with the monster brush” (2001. Fahy remarks (2003. which can be achieved by everyone. Imagination. The reader feels considerable unease because. as remarked by Andrew Schopp (2003. to understand his desires through establishing a psychic bond with him. focuses more on Hannibal Lecter: it is as if Harris has realized he should not confine such a mesmerizing character to a secondary role. but not before he is seriously wounded: his face is carved up with a knife making him “hard to look at” (SL 71). Francis Dolarhyde. When trying to convince her boss to involve her in the investigation. is that while Graham identifies with the perpetrator. who feels he is looked upon as a freak – even by his co-workers. and belittled. regardless of class. intelligent. deprivation and desperation leaves us exposed to the allure of sophisticated monsters. Garrett Jacob Hobbs to death. simply because they could not identify with a woman’s position. and tries to guess his next steps. However. The connection between the two men is also underscored by the fact that Graham was briefly hospitalized for depression in an asylum. and in a quite unfair way. Lecter projects his own murderous impulses onto Graham when he asks the investigator: “When you were so depressed after you shot Mr. As Holland-Toll claims. is sent to seek help from Lecter. 203). a killer who skins his female victims. which claims that culture humanizes us and protects society from “anarchy and disorder” (1981. Crawford also knows that Graham has “the other thing too. she is still as much of a freak as Graham – being a pretty. who maintains that “there’s nobody better with evidence” (RD 8). he succeeded in catching three killers). The usual relegation of crime and acts of violence into the sphere of poverty. The pattern shown in Red Dragon repeats itself. He described it as “an inward condition of the mind and spirit” (1981. Clarice does so with the victims. the clearly dividing line between the hunter and the hunted is again shown to be fuzzy. clearly perceives his enemy in this way: “Graham knew. A female detective upsets the traditional balance of power: she occupies a male space. but. and she is also brave enough to look into herself at the prompting of Lecter. As David Punter observes. Harris further connects him to the hare-lipped monster whom he was trailing. as if monstrosity were a virus which affects anyone who comes close. He is contaminated. He tries to see with the killer’s eyes. didn’t you feel so bad because killing him felt so good?” (RD 270) Lecter’s remark touches a vulnerable point in Graham. young woman operating in a male world. constantly being ogled. 48). instead of being content in the role of the “passive recipient of the gaze” (Dubois 2001. 266) might eventually destabilize the boundaries between the pursuer and the pursued. she says: “I can walk in a woman’s room and know three times as much about her as a man would know” (SL 286). was it? Really. Graham succeeds in eliminating the murderer. 300). The Silence of the Lambs (1989). He taunts investigator Graham with the following: “The reason you caught me is that we’re just alike” (RD 67). who is supposed to have information regarding Buffallo Bill.. also win her a lot of enemies at the Bureau. 99 . This ability gains Graham respect (after all. in a certain sense: a representative of the law. “overidentification with the killer” (2004. Clarice Starling. Thus. and his perfect manners only make him more dangerous – since we tend to assume that “high culture reflects civility as well as an elevated personal and moral character” (Fahy 2003. or mine – and maybe some other points of view that scare and sicken him” (RD 152). harassed. which win the approval of other women (“you’re kind of [. Clarice feels part of a sisterhood and makes it her personal mission to save the next woman from being slaughtered. 47). Now Lecter occupies center stage. has “the absurd feeling that Lecter had walked out with him” (RD 67) out of the asylum after he visited him.. which has turned him into a pariah. This enables her to find clues which male colleagues overlooked. Barbarism and civilization are inextricably linked in Lecter’s personality. and Clarice. “as distinguished from our animality” (1981. However.] special to us”(H 367)). following a confrontation with a murderer whom he was forced to shoot. Paradoxically then. An interesting difference between the previous novel’s detective. However. she is also an active looker: she looks for clues. an FBI trainee. Clarice’s independent attitude and “smart mouth”. 63). it wasn’t the act that got you down. Graham. due to it. but people also feel a bit uncomfortable around him. the second. by disfiguring Graham’s face. it is the detective who ends up looking like a monster. He returns only on the insistence of his boss. Graham. The son of a bitch was a monster” (RD 313).Arnold observed that it is culture which gives us our humanity. and probably the best known novel in the series (thanks to the immensely popular film version). He doesn’t like that part of it” (RD 8).

treats Lecter with respect. which probably results from his extra-acute senses and depth of experience: he is able to deduce a lot from a very little. is a sort of psychic invasion.” (H 475) Mann (1996) further remarks that if we keep in mind what Lecter does to tongues (ripping out a nurse’s and making Miggs swallow his). To other people. yet we see him as being capable of bonding with another human being and we remain. criticizing her poor taste and reminding her of the poor. 171). in Latin. a freak to look at. where she is stuck with the awful memories of the dark episodes of her childhood. Halberstam compares Lecter to Buffallo Bill in his dealings with Clarice. involuntarily. he is made to wear a hockey mask to prevent him from biting. As a cannibal. Though he cruelly dissects Clarice during their first meeting. No wonder that Crawford. but ultimately he liberates her. It’s so rare to get one alive” (RD 60). tearing away body parts. Though Lecter is the one who is imprisoned in body. Throughout the series. rural environment she hails from (calling her a “hustling rube” (SL 21)). both literally and metaphorically: his words can destroy people. arguing that “stripping the mind is no less a violation than stripping the body” (1995. The ambiguity surrounding the power issuing from his mouth is made explicit when a female character is warned: “ “Be careful of the mouth. at all times. as he calls it. warns Clarice before her first meeting with Lecter (in phrases reminiscent of fairy tales in which the parent bids farewell to the child before sending him/her on a quest).Her authority is often called into question. Mann (1996) calls our attention to how much power resides in his mouth.” She didn’t know if Tommaso meant Dr Lecter’s mouth or his words. We should also remember that Lecter often attacked his victims with his teeth. under his spell. with which he opens his handcuffs. after this humiliation. He also possesses uncanny rhetorical skills. Lecter is capable of turning insides out: not just metaphorically. and seeing him as a human being alongside his being a murderer. he “feeds upon both flesh and fiction”: he cannibalizes stories. and his open cell in Memphis (to where he is transferred). we have to see the considerable risk Clarice is running when she is not careful about her own mouth: by revealing personal information. or the “Other” (H 368). leading to reciprocity and mutual respect in their dealings with each other. Don't deviate from it. and his gory escape from Memphis was made possible by his having hidden in his mouth a small metal tube. and. Chilton. 109) by Lecter). and by incorporating it. calling him “Doctor” (SL 14). He penetrates both bodies and minds. on the other hand. with the same ease. In Wolfe’s words (1995. 174). turning all his insides out. interpretative and analytic skills fail when one is confronted with Lecter: he is variously referred to as a “monster” (SL 6). Schopp (2003. People feel almost naked when he points his “high-powered perception” at them (SL 22): “Graham felt that Lecter was looking through to the back of his skull” (RD 63). while not imprisoned physically. and men rarely treat her on equal terms – but Lecter is an exception. he takes the exterior other. so. 27). she puts herself into a vulnerable position. Whatever information he is willing to share with Clarice. or heal them for that matter (he was a practicing psychiatrist). we also learn that “he was free in his head” (SL 164). Clarice has to expose scenes from her life which she would prefer to keep inside. Do not deviate from it one iota for any 100 . “Be very careful with Hannibal Lecter. For a wrong committed against Clarice. Clarice accepts the deal. a stern paternal figure. which is why the police turn to him for help. suggests “reader”. which Lecter immediately identifies as a period of trauma that she is trying to repress. The asylum chief talks about him in terms of a rare species: “a pure sociopath. So caging Lecter is not an effective way of containing this persuasive monster. Lecter also seems to be able to read minds. His intrusion into her psyche could be seen as an act of aggression (Caputi describes Clarice as being “mind fucked” (1993. and in the film version a senator completely objectifies Lecter by calling him “this thing”. We might recall that his name. Clarice is made to disrobe emotionally in front of Lecter. the “fiend” (H 470). 137) remarks that. he is just a monster to study. His ability to “see” the contents of another person’s brain. He is excellent at reading clues. the roots of whose obsession are not revealed. he remains an enigma. the “Devil” (H 181). according to Peter Messent (2000. Dr. and achieves a great deal with his suave words: he hypnotizes a fellow-inmate by whispering to him all night long and makes him carry out his command to commit suicide. In effect. his profession as a psychiatrist enables him to colonize the minds of others. echoes a cage holding an exotic animal in a zoo. when surrounded by people. there is a price to pay: Clarice must reveal episodes of her painful childhood. 158). an opaque character. and. as in the revelations of Clarice prompted by his probing questions. Clarice. in the middle of an old courtroom. will go over the physical procedure you use to deal with him. regarding Buffallo Bill. the inmate is made to swallow his own tongue. Lecter is not a cannibal simply in the literal sense of the word. the head of the mental hospital. turns it into something interior. he establishes a level playing field with her. to poke around in their memories. is imprisoned in her mind. but also literally: on one occasion he disembowels a policeman. As Halberstam points out (1995. “quid pro quo” (SL 142). Her repeated visits become therapeutic for her. and this process shows Lecter’s utter disrespect for boundaries.

The screaming of the lambs kept her awake on many nights. Lecter acknowledges the peculiar bond connecting them together in their mutual involvement with Clarice: “you’ve had Crawford’s help and you’ve had mine” (SL 59). she hopes to silence the lambs – forever. But Verger is also the heir of a meatpacking dynasty. we first have to reveal a part of her past: her father.] I expect you can see it too. It's the kind of curiosity that makes a snake look in a bird's nest. just like he’d do anybody else” (SL 342). who holds out the promise of professional advancement and psychic healing. However.. it will aid her in her career. You don't want any of your personal facts in his head. Clarice’s boss. the upholder of a strict morality. where horses and lambs for the slaughterhouse were raised. a female warrior: uncorrupted. when Clarice comes to consult him in the Memphis prison without having the right to do so. for her. in fact. Verger. Having grown up without a father. He accepts money from Mason Verger. her immediate boss. We both know you have to back-and-forth a little in interviews. Crawford. and her unresolved conflicts with her father. fades into the background. a town marshal. Her ability to tell right from wrong. Following his death. Enraged readers did not realize that Harris. had succeeded in injecting even more humanity into Clarice by revealing her insecurities. she cannot develop a lasting relationship with a man. and near it Jupiter [. Officially off the case. was killed in the line of duty while Clarice was still a child. He immediately remarks: “People will say we’re in love” (SL 216). we find ourselves rooting for 101 . 820) remarks that for many conservative. loyal. while still obsessed with her father. but you tell him no specifics about yourself. and a certain Krendler appears. and a criminal. Hannibal. her vulnerability. share some stars. trying to minimize the special nature of the relationship between her and the doctor: “You know he’d do it to you. as in the Latin “claritas”. Clarice was sent to her mother’s cousin’s ranch. and her relentless pursuit of justice as an FBI agent can be traced back to this traumatic experience. he'll just be trying to find out about you. where Lecter and Clarice become lovers after Lecter’s successful therapy with her. from 1999. this feeling of helplessness which overwhelmed her when she realized she could not save the lambs. Harris confounded his readers’ ability to clearly distinguish hero from villain. by aspiring to eliminate the killer. the only surviving victim of Lecter. Readers thought she held these qualities intrinsically. her firearms instructor. If Lecter talks to you at all. “standing in his white cell. she has to deceive the guards surrounding Lecter in order to have a few moments of privacy with him. paedophile and rapist of his own sister).. People looked upon her as an idol and did not take well to her becoming the partner of the demonic antihero. If she interprets the clues correctly and saves Bill’s last victim. “caught in the instant when he did not mock”. the lambs are the victims of Buffallo Bill. Clarice represented a hero. suggests brightness and clarity. The book ends with his letter to Clarice. and were disappointed to learn that her behaviour had stemmed from a childhood trauma. with this masterly stroke. Once again. involuntarily. Lecter’s fingertips lightly brush hers. “The touch crackled in his eyes” (SL 222). but there is no trace of him in the next installment. Stephen Fuller (2005. Some of our stars are the same” (SL 351). The doctor shows his jealousy quite explicitly when he asks Clarice: “Do you think Jack Crawford wants you sexually?” (SL 59) Crawford is also anxious when he has to discuss Lecter with Clarice. his psychiatrist. When her preteens is discovered. Lecter is emphasizing a common feature here: a detective. which suggests some kind of a connection. she gravitates towards various father figures in the series: Jack Crawford. her moral clarity is a defining trait. Judging from the venomous public attack mounted against the next book of the series. There is a curious competition between the rival figures of Lecter and Crawford. so his immense wealth gives him a degree of immunity in the eyes of the law and now he spares no expense in order to find his nemesis. who is currently residing in Florence. where he uses a language otherwise fit for love letters: “Orion is above the horizon now.reason. is bribing police officers and employing small-time hoodlums whilst setting up an intricate worldwide web to capture Lecter. an ambitious bureaucrat at the Justice Department. unswerving. Now. her mentor and analyst. and she commits this last scene to memory: Lecter. Verger is hideous to look at. Even her name seems to evoke a positive characteristic: Clarice. who deemed it a just punishment for Verger’s sins (he being a sadist. middle-class Americans. he peeled off almost all his face with a shard of glass while in a drug-induced state. and she is forcefully removed from the room. What proved to be even more difficult for them to accept was the denouement of the novel. who should occupy diametrically opposed positions. and Hannibal Lecter. who abuses the system. at the suggestion of Lecter. John Brigham. So. Hannibal further destabilizes our preconceived notions of good and bad. these subtle hints must have been overlooked by a lot of people. and. arched like a dancer” (SL 222). bent on a personal revenge." (SL 6) What role does Lecter play in Clarice’s life? To answer this question. At the end of the book we see her on a date with a decent man (tellingly called Noble). That there is a subdued erotic tension between Clarice and Lecter can be inferred from the scene of their farewell in The Silence of the Lambs.

gathers her into his arms and takes her to his home. Krendler and Verger both symbolize a cultural decline. and represented a strong community. during a time when she was driven by the fierce desire to be “approved. he exclaims: “Wouldn’t do what to lie?” (H 322) When a letter is intercepted. Thanks to his manipulation. an unjust system which makes it hard for a woman to succeed and be treated on equal terms with her male colleagues. undergoes a radical change. that kind of thing? Male prostitutes?” (H 309) He has no sophistication in language either. and their deaths leave an emotional and professional vacuum (Ling 2004. nor feel its tactile evocations anywhere else. reminiscent of a communion ceremony. a group of dedicated people whose mission was to safeguard the society against disruptive forces. In Schopp’s interpretation (2003. whom she “could not 102 . People are not judged on the basis of their merits. Now it is Lecter’s turn to return the favour: he sucks the wound. Lecter shows immense empathy towards her and does everything possible to cure her of her obsession with her father (he even disinters her father’s remains to make her accept his dead presence in her life).” Montenegro said. Lecter’s intellectual refinement becomes all the more striking when compared with such abysmal figures. always assuming the stance of a predator: “Mixed hungers crossed his face. Clarice. In the showdown. and did not realize the symbolic value inherent in the otherwise slightly disgusting and grotesque dinner. The Italian waved the question away. and is working on her own when she finds Lecter. Clarice is able to vent her repressed anger and frustration with her father. she is shot with a tranquilizer rifle by the only remaining criminal. Turning Clarice into a cannibal is no small decision on Harris’s part. by the end of the novel. is about Clarice’s disillusionment with the FBI. 129). secluded and highly artistic life.Lecter. the eating of Krendler is a symbolic act of taking his power and authority and of diminishing them in the process. Hannibal. Krendler repeatedly assaults Clarice with vulgar sexual remarks. we find infighting. among them an ex-sheriff. still wearing his star. which clearly shows she no longer considers shooting at the badge an inviolable taboo). who is living a low-profile. both die. where the therapy begins. to save Lecter from the fate reserved for him by Verger. we witness again the reciprocity permeating their strange relationship. partakes in the strange dinner. Brigham. prioritizing her personal needs and desires. So. calling her a “country pussy” (H 311). which previously meant almost everything to her. “Il miele dentro la leonessa. included. During her therapy. filing it away for his own use at a later time. “the icon of failure and frustration” (H 529). assuming that his sense of taste is a constant in his life. In serial killer novels. In Platt’s opinion (2003). a corrupt bureaucrat and a greedy Italian cop. the firearms instructor. In fact. and Crawford. made possible with the help of various members of law enforcement. chosen” (SL 277). when Clarice frees Lecter from his bonds. using her as bait to flush Lecter from his hiding place. tracking certain high-end goods which might lead her to Lecter. Clarice’s boss. When she tries to explain to him her search method. takes revenge against the bad father figure and against patriarchy in a more general sense. she will retire from the world of public duties and responsibilities and choose an alternative lifestyle. it was Krendler’s nature to both appreciate Starling’s leg and look for the hamstring” (H 51). Krendler’s reaction reveals his inability to understand Lecter’s sophistication: “Does he hire S and M whores. in a certain sense. the “awfulness of modern life”. Many people objected to this scene. No longer characterized by a cooperative spirit and commitment to the task and public good. After Clarice kills most of his captors (and significantly. who ends up part of a gourmet dish on his table. Verger takes full advantage of this decadent atmosphere and bribes Krendler to manipulate the system in order to facilitate his personal vendetta. which played a “redeeming role” (Holland-Toll 2001. Clarice is suspended from her job. He kidnaps Krendler. but a paradoxical situation has been created: Clarice’s mission is. seeing that Krendler would never hear the music in Dr Lecter’s metaphor. vying for position. that’s nice. professional misconduct and widespread corruption. the person also acquires the virtues and powers of the opponent. a cannibal is pitted against a rich sociopath. in which Lecter calls Clarice “the honey in the lion”. who is both “herself and not herself” (H 515) during these sessions with the doctor (partly because of the hypnotic drugs he administers to her). The FBI. Cannibalistic acts are often associated with the belief that by eating the flesh of the enemy. by ingesting parts of Krendler’s brain.” (H 418) Krendler is even willing to endanger Clarice’s life. we usually assume that the menace is going to come from serial killers (Lecter) and that we should trust the representatives of the law (the police and special agents) to shield us from them. and private agendas take precedence over public concerns. “It’s what?” Krendler said. 64) in The Silence of the Lambs. now. the incorruptible face of the FBI. as the curator of a library. trussed up by Verger’s henchmen. Krendler again shows the total absence of aesthetic sense in him. Clarice. so when a source tells him that Lecter would not “deign to lie”. 392).

Fuller. Harris does not venture to promise eternal happiness for his couple. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jane. we learn that. 188-202. London: Corgi Books. 2002. No. Fahy. The Silence of the Lambs. No. 2005. “Seeing the Female Body Differently: gender issues in The Silence of the Lambs. with his beginning to mourn the loss of his baby sister. Hannibal. Lecter is a stand-in figure for the lost father. 1993. Barbara. begin a new life cycle with Clarice and a process of reparation might start. Dubois. 5: 819-833.” Journal of Gender Studies 10. after the collapse of the Eastern Front in 1944. Richard. Skin Shows. 385). Westport: Greenwood Press. In this novel. he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and cannot yet leave the past behind. Caputi. Thomas. Retreating deserters stumbled upon their hunting lodge and in their crazed hunger they cannibalized Mischa.3: 297-310.” In Horror Film and Psychoanalysis. 829). which proved we are never really that far from the monstrous. This is the point where we see how Clarice can help: she replaces the lost “good object” in Hannibal’s life. leaving readers with disturbing memories of the text. is the last step in her therapy. 1: 100-114. another to become a serial killer. 100). Mischa cannot be resurrected. Harris. but by becoming her sexual partner. 2001. Creed. London: Arrow Books. but Lecter might. six-year-old Hannibal found himself orphaned with his adored little sister. Thomas.” The Journal of Popular Culture. Bleiler.” In Icons of Horror and the Supernatural. edited by Steven Jay Schneider. References Arnold. they redefine their relationship along different lines and mutually help each other.T. The Silence of the Lambs. Halberstam. 1992. both of them have equal interest in the rounding out of their relationship. Through various flashbacks. “Hannibal Lecter: The Honey in the Lion’s Mouth. 2003. “her passage from repression and innocence to sexual awakening” means her “embracing of carnality”. he attempts to rid himself of the haunting horrors. 341-373. During these acts of cannibalistic oral aggression. Bettina. “The Monster.” American Journal of Psychotherapy. His later compulsion to kill and eat parts of people (usually ones whom he considers to be bad) can be traced back to this childhood tragedy. Joshi. Culture and Anarchy. as well. regeneration for her.” The Journal of Popular Culture. edited by S. while Hannibal might have finally found his substitute for Mischa. Mischa. This meal. Gregory. 2004. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. he retrieves his lost sister through Clarice (Ling 2004. he tries to murder the traumatic memory. Thus. “Killer Culture: Classical Music and the Art of Killing in Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. Matthew. “Deposing an American Cultural Totem: Clarice Starling and Postmodern Heroism in Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon. Stephen M.] for dying” (H 528). 37. Judith. Almost as in their quid pro quo exchanges in the prison. 2007. No. Hannibal Lecter. “Freud’s Worst Nightmare: Dining with Dr. Durham and London: Duke University Press. 1: 28-42.. an uncomfortable affinity is shown between the traditionally contrasting positions of hero and villain. after all the bloodshed and mutilations. Harris finally decides to reveal the origins of Lecter’s evil. perhaps. Red Dragon. to quote Fuller (2005. 1981. 2000. However. Clarice achieves full maturity.. ---. London: Arrow Books. 16 Issue 4: 101-112. 56. in a sense.” Journal of American Culture. In a sense. Vol. 1999. Though this ending might sound a bit “sugary” to readers. Diane. “American Psychos: The Serial Killer in Contemporary Fiction. Vol. 1995. Vol. Vol. ---. As Bettina Gregory points out (2002. 38.forgive [. 103 . and Hannibal. he has presented us with a story wherein he pointed out that a childhood trauma might lead one to become an FBI agent.

2004. Mann. Journal of American and Comparative Cultures. 23. “American Gothic: Liminality in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter Novels”.galegroup. Peter. “The Hannibal Lecter Novels: Modern/Postmodern Fables. 2000. “The Matter with Mind: Violence and ‘The Silence of the Lambs.M.com/journal/articles/fall_2003/platt. “Tearing your soul apart: horror’s new monsters. 2009). 2003. Ling. No. L. Linda. 2004. 104 . Karen. 2001.” Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture 2:2.Holland-Toll.do?p=LitRG&u=szegedi (accessed September 15.4: 583-605. Peter. 2003. 2009). edited by Victor Sage and Allan Lloyd Smith.com/ps/start.4: 23-35.” Camera Obscura 53. Hutchings. 2: 125-151. Platt. Messent. Schopp. David and Glennis Byron. Manchester: Manchester University Press.” In Modern Gothic. “The Practice and Politics of “Freeing the Look”: Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. 1996. and Apple Pie.H. As American as Mom. 18. http://www.htm (accessed June 15. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Press. The Gothic. http://go.” Boundary 2 22:3: 142-170. 1996. Psychoanalysis and the Discourse of Species in Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. Cary and Jonathan Elmer. “The Monster Within: What Fu Manchu and Hannibal Lecter Can Tell Us about Terror and Desire in a Post-9/11 World. “Subject to Sacrifice: Ideology.” Positions 12:2: 377-400. Baseball. Len. Wolfe.americanpopularculture. Punter. 89-101. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford. Vol.’” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 38. 1995. Andrew.

The sixteen year-old girl. O’Toole’s novel presents a culturally only superficially committed. family and conceptualization of the world. as opposed to the red and white binary opposition of the stereotypical historical tradition of Native American versus white European cultures. Deborah Larsen’s The White (2003) and Fintan O’Toole’s White Savage (2005) present the many-coloured and often ambiguous process of becoming partly indigenous. While the fusion of personality traits thought of as characteristic of or innate to a particular race/community makes the shape shifter’s personality uniquely ambiguous but not highly successful in either culture. Moreover. mind. however.Ethno-Cultural Ambiguity in Recent American Gone Indian Stories . is a contemporary novel that expands on the early captivity narratives with a present-day psychoanalytical understanding of intercultural transfer and shape shifting. but indeed more static in his core identity. Judit Ágnes Kádár The problem of ethno-cultural ambiguity is a central theme of a number of recent American and Canadian prose writings that explore shape shifting processes in gone Indian stories. who can enjoy the luxury of selecting the more advantageous and valuable cultural traits of each culture only in her later life. when s/he does not clearly commit him/herself to either the original or new cultural affiliation. Johnson is not confused about his identity. captured along with her entire family and a few neighbours by a raiding party of Shawnees and French mercenaries. both texts offer a backwards critical glance at European culture that is supremely ambivalent. experienced the murder and 105 . the life experience of so-called “‘side-by-sideness. Fictional In-Betweenness in Deborah Larsen’s The White (2003) The trans-cultural stories of going indigenous imply the constructed nature of both identity and the notion of race and ethnicity. personal ambitions are reachable only in the individual sphere and less in the broader social framework. I then indicate post-colonial approaches to the dislocation of the self/colour lines and give short analyses of the defamiliarization of whiteness in both novels. dynamic. and Mary Jemison/Two-Falling-Voices both provide a post-colonial approach to the dislocation of the self and colour lines in the view of the historiographic metafiction underlining the epistemological relativism of such stories and figures. O’Toole’s biography incorporates the sociological and historical context of Colonial Period mediators’ and patriarchs’ cultural oscillation between the poles of two cultures. In the following paper I examine these two texts from four perspectives.the Camouflage Forest Superman White Savage and Two-Falling-Voices. the Buckskin Tory and Forest Superman of the Mohawk Valley. The stories of Sir William Johnson/Warraghiyagey. The White provides us with a 21st Century interpretation of the original story of the daughter of Irish immigrants living on the dangerous edge of the Pennsylvania frontier in 1758. whose previous cultural identifications are overwritten by Native culture and she is forced to elaborate alternative modes of being. The so-called métissage texts call attention to the ambivalent hybrid identities continuously in flux (Vautier 270). First I consider them as portrayals of the ambiguous process of becoming partly indigenous. though he elaborates his reception in his mother and host communities. the White Seneca.” liaison persons. Her core identity changes from a culturally close Anglo ethnic identity to a more fluid in-between person.” The “culture brokers. As Vaultier claims. and biracial shape shifters of all periods go through the inclinations of belonging. Larsen’s novel presents Mary as a creative non-victim in Margaret Atwood’s well-known terminology. at the time of the French and Indian War. not too concerned about the internalized elements of cultures. underlining the uncertain nature of any approach to understanding such a swinger shifter character. even if that character can effectively utilize his/her bicultural knowledge and skills. when she consciously merges worlds in her heart. Larsen’s novel. contributing and socializing correlated with internal and external anomalies of all sorts.’ leads to the possibility of sharing cultural experiences rather than ‘resisting’ the imposition of alien forms of culture (Vautier 269). On the contrary. practical-minded and morally ambivalent culture broker who constructs his world from the carefully selected fragments of the cultures involved.. the result seems to be an ambivalent person whose identity and image is confusing and is primarily seen as controversial. at least in O’Toole’s narrative. Nevertheless.

The White is a captivity account. the two hill slopes always signify her in-betweenness in two cultures. for the voice that lay between the lines in the narrative (www. marrying twice. with all the correlated ups-and-downs of her life and identity formulation.asp#interview). which includes psychoanalytical insight into the counter-passing character as an addition to and extension of Dr Seaver. The second is the Ohio Valley (1758-62).scalping of her kin and kind. strong-willed and energetic agent who not only actively shapes her own life. and interestingly. Mary/TwoFalling-Voices lived as a member of the tribe for fifty years. but is also capable of formulating her story within and beyond the limitations of Dr. For Mary/Two-Falling-Voices. lyrical meditation on a woman’s coming of age. The novelist underlines the lack of emotional understanding presented by the previous narrative. the site of her gradual accommodation. its possible impact. since then 28 more editions of Mary Jamison’s captivity have been created. The protagonist’s unconscious motivations (e. arguing. The physical. a woman is always somewhat more forced to seek security while trying to find peace of mind and happiness. elaborate and sustain some constant elements to grab hold of: the land. first written as a screenplay and then was transformed into a twenty-first century novel. mark out. respect and a positive. her personality is torn between the paranoiac urge to mark out her own position in the society and on the land and take possession of a firm name. Jeames Seaver. she provides us with the womanly perspective of the Jemison story. “My novel is an invention. self-supporting attitude towards life in general. human affection. which is the location of her captivity and ritual initiation. adding “[Mary Jemison’s] voice was a gift. the shock of violence. stabile. pure and simple. completes her adoption and provides a comfortable environment. However.” The post-modern narrative strategy of voice giving is an essential part of Larsen’s text. the schizophrenic urge to leave her ties behind and shift into a less limited existence. the final location of Jemison’s life. and potential responses to the original and new human environment. Alongside the natural inclinations of any person to escape captivity and find firm ground in the world. each experience makes her into a more-and-more conscious. as well as the encouraging power of sisterhood) affect her psyche and imagination and revitalize her after the numbing shock of captivity.readinggroupguides. the Latinist rhetorician. with the author’s empathy and experience of a woman and ex-nun. adventure tale. The first is the Buchanan Valley (-1758).com/guides3/white2. take possession of) poles. I just listened for the voice that wasn’t obviously there. and then found herself adopted into a family of Senecas. “The Mary of history was plainly concerned about her children’s welfare. identity and piece of land that belongs to her exclusively on the one hand. Essentially my contention was that the overlapping stages of Mary/Two-Falling-Voices’s life and character development are depicted by the valleys that provide the metaphorical habitats of her life. “How little of her lay on his pages. In addition. she is able to identify. and his objectivizing white male discourse. raising seven children. My Mary—for The White is not a ‘history’ as such—chooses to remain on her lands for complicated reasons which accrue throughout her life (author interview 106 .” Larsen claims in an interview. The personality of such a shape-shifting character can be understood in terms of schizophrenic (transform identity. who noted down her account. and on the other. loss and alienation. and frontier romance. at the crossroads of schizophrenic and paranoiac pressures. even suicidal. making repatriation all but pointless. not a recreation. In these valleys. the impacts of several childbirths and deaths. mental and spiritual challenges almost drive her mad.” Larson says in an interview. 1/ The Indigenization Process In an earlier paper I examined how shape shifting and developing an in-between identity is textually marked in The White (“Fictional In-Betweenness in Deborah Larsen’s The White 2003”). as is the emphasis on the possibility of seeing a character and a story from various perspectives and the acknowledgement of the fundamentally ambiguous nature of those sources of opinion. shifting boundaries) and paranoiac (pressed to territorialize. Seaver’s narrative. He had in no way captured her face (W 210). The psychoanalytical perspective of the central characters provides the reader with an understanding of the motivations behind the intercultural transfer. 2/ Post-Colonial Approach As for genre. Nevertheless.g. and at the end of her life allowing herself to be interviewed by a New York state physician and amateur historian. while the Genesse Valley (1762-1833). the dramatic breakup of her image of her father.

as the narrative of Mary’s life unfolds. symbolic. Prestige is a symbolic reward. Fictional shape shifters first face the problems posed by the different sets of values of the two cultures between which they move and then seek acknowledgement in the new culture. In The White. attitude and fate.” She captured the complexity of the captive shape shifter’s situation.’ a proto-feminist heroine through appropriation. her family and peers. 4/ Ambiguity In the “extremity of colonial alienation (Bhabha 114). is primarily shaped by preconceptions. allegedly socio-culturally superior majority culture of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant community underlines the critical view of her original culture. the cultural in-betweenness of the heroine is indicated in different ways. in other words to suggest an understanding of these two cultures as adjacent rather than opposed. However. is similar to a white Creole woman. In a semi-intentional acculturation stage of such stories. while her environment faces the challenge of locating her identity (or pigeonholing) her in a sensible way. the Noble Savage image of Cooperian sentimentalism clashes in the reader’s mind with the naturalistic details of combat and savagery. our perceptions and understanding fluctuate with the ebbs and flows of the heroine’s emotions. Her displacement and alienation. by isolating herself from both and taking the freedom of dwelling in the vacuum of in-betweeness. In the new captivity situation. confronting the challenges of Otherness and then shifting its boundaries (Bhabha 118). she is forced to elaborate alternative modes of being. while her conversion is a temporary or permanent social strategy of survival. such as the prejudice that it is better to be dead than living with an Indian. In fact. The path from being the Other to being ‘One of Us’ is symbolically implied in many ways. but you are now truly one of our race (W 63). The story can be read as a rejection of either/or-s and an attempt to replace them with both.” Mary is in the “state of shipwreck (Ghosh-Schellhorn 181)”. Her previous cultural identifications are overwritten by Native culture and she experiences a kind of racial absorption. the Forest Superman is a historiographic metafiction that primarily explores the phenomenon of the slippage of “the mimicry man” (Bhabha 121). and this fact challenges any hasty assumption concerning her negation of white culture. red dichotomy into a more sophisticated understanding of ethnic relations. the heroine of the popular movie Dances with Wolves). In the long run. The initial events even strengthen these prejudices. through her self-awareness. while this “slippage” is in fact a constant shape-shifting between two social 107 . she understands the apparent benefit of being inter/biracial.readinggroupguides.www. we can share her sensitivity to cultural coding and received notions of race and colour. in her more mature life.” but also in symbolic actions. motivations.asp#interview). for the brutality and loss she experiences turn her resolutely against her captors. Once we enter the tribal scenes. historic reality (Bhabha 118-9). Fintan O’Toole’s biography of Sir William Johnson (1715-74). a part of the central character’s former identity is eventually erased. like when Sheninjee tells Mary. a process depicted in The White by the heroine’s temporary numbness (as also experienced by Standing-with-Fist. objects and locations. Initially “the Other must be seen as the necessary negation of a primordial identity—cultural and psychic--that introduces the system of differentiation which enables the ‘cultural’ to be signified as a linguistic. Mary’s attitude towards whites and Indians. The Camouflage Forest Superman of the White Savage. However. she refuses the negative tendencies in both cultures. emotions and image. thereby equating them on a more general human level. “I am not white. in the last part of her life she keeps herself physically removed from the Native community as well. The first set refers to the pre-received images to which she had had access to prior to her encounter with Native culture. 3/ The Defamiliarizaion of Whiteness and a Critical View on European Culture Larsen presents the development of her protagonist’s comprehension of reality from the white v.” The act of refusing to return to the original. which takes form in the social prestige they manage to achieve. (The same ambivalence is depicted by the contemporary “hyphen dwellers” presented in Living in the Hyphen). However. the “subjective dimension of social stratification (Goldstein 182)” that exercises a considerable influence on how we locate ourselves in a community. It is there for instance in verbal utterances.com/guides3/white2. By the time she becomes a ‘white Indian. a ‘white nigger’. The second is the more realistic set of virtues that she recognizes throughout the contact experience.

” As for the actual process of Johnson’s partial shape shifting and semi-indigenization. making himself indispensable to both parties under the imperative of protection and control over land. it touches on the exciting problem of epistemological relativism that surrounds this highly influential historical personality. From the beginning. he secured an opportunity to expand his power and significance (WS 76). 1/ The Indigenization Process Within the broader group of gone indigenous characters. authority. deeds and impact. On a more abstract level. making him a highly successful Indian “wannabe” and European patriarch in the same person. the impact and success of his ethnic shape shifting was outstanding and almost incomparable. whereas his fictional and mythic 108 . motivations. underlining the constructed nature of his ethnic affiliation and thereby implying the highly fictional nature of racial (colour) divides. mythic feature of Johnson’s character is depicted in detail by O’Toole. i. there are those who stand for the subtype of what I refer to as swinger shifters. Interestingly. 2/ Post-Colonial Approach O’Toole’s book has three remarkably insightful features that one recognizes reading between the lines of William Johnson’s biography: one is the emphasis on the mutual recognition of the complex reality of the Other (WS 18) within the Colonial context of the European versus Native dichotomy. but also awareness that this knowledge is not sufficient to be successful: in order to obtain long-standing influence. including family ties and political connections that created his new position and a hybrid identity. What makes Johnson particularly unusual is that he made his sojourner experience. a culture broker of mythic vistas. and his skills help him become an extremely powerful player in the colonial fight for power. while the third is the satirical view of European culture implied by his critical Indian-ness. which was depicted by his Mohawk initiation and sachem role: “To serve as the image of white America in relation to the continent’s indigenous population.roles/masks/personalities. his permanent lifestyle and became a cross-cultural chameleon on the one hand. in the later part of his life the political strategies are extended with a particular spiritualism that becomes fully visible in his afterlife when he becomes a Frontier icon. and at the same time distances himself from establishment white authorities and creates his ultimate position with the active manipulation of both private and public cultural spheres of power and sexual politics. counterbalanced by an official acknowledgement of his heroism in Great Britain. as well as his personal reactions and the strategies he adopted in order to meet these demands. he must locate himself in the imagination and heart of the Mohawk in the form of a sachem. while on the other. This fictional. The new strategies of warfare. presents himself in community rituals as a superb orator. He realized that it was not so much a military officer who was needed to organize Indians at war. and challenges. His process of elaborated construction of an imaginary Other Self was extremely successful and had major social and historical impact in his own age. the real Johnson has to be transformed into a monarch who has the right to rule absolutely because even the savages recognize his innate magnificence (WS 346). and power in the New World. temporary Indians who oscillate between their native and white selves and activate the required component of the identity that best happens to fit the given historical moment and situation. in the next phases Johnson’s commitments become very complex.e. The author makes us understand that Johnson’s remarkable command of cultures and intercultural communication include not only the recognition of the fluid nature of his reality. this intercultural oscillation. where strategic loyalties and compromises are required. but rather an interpreter/mediator (WS 125) who could facilitate the rugged terrain of the encounter and settlement times. He becomes a protector of the Mohawks. he developed superb social skills and methods and then elaborated a native image and identity component. The Iroquois needed him to become parts of the imperial system (WS 69). The second is the highly relative and epistemologically uncertain nature of Johnson’s figure. I believe that his life in North America can be seen as a series of overlapping phases marked by events. Moreover. peacemaking and negotiating are necessary to facilitate Johnson’s grand plan: an Iroquois confederacy under his leadership and an expanding alliance between Western tribes and Canadian Indians. his initial contact with Indian culture for business purposes. Deep-rooted social demands appeared as important motivations for Johnson. While in the first phases the private sphere is active in cultural brokerage and learning.

a charismatic white man of natural carelessness with the “ability to marry whiteness with the best aspect of Indian culture (WS 345). Frontier superman. chameleon. Johnson was an honorary Indian with. Labels attached to his figure are telling of his ambiguous nature: Buckskin Tory. cunning. prehistoric man in an Edenic state of ignorance. His “domestic [multicultural] utopia (WS 348)” was an attempt to challenge both the European garrison mentality and the disparity of wild and tame that had long existed in the European imagination. commissioner for Indian affairs and a freelance general. Johnson was a combination of white racial purity and raw Indian toughness (WS 343).” In the English and French imagination the word Mohawk referred to a wild gang or a pagan savage (WS 13). fears. where the rather ignorant general public is excited about the newcomers and superimposes on them a mixture of the Noble Savage and the Vanishing Indian images: “They were noble and majestic.” was a dispossessed Irish Catholic turned Protestant who in the New World partly became an Iroquois (Warraghiyagey). multi-lingual family. bogeymen with which to frighten children and wives into good behaviour (WS 14). an authoritative attitude. second. they seemed “social fossils” of Old Condition (WS 50). he was an imperialist adventurer and an enthusiastic slave owner. trust.” He was a Frontier playboy. However. The process of semi-indigenization (going Other/passing) is a kind of ironical American mirror to European culture. and ambiguous attractions of white Europeans. he was a British subject and servant. As for the White Savage. and there was little trust in Mohawks in terms of diplomacy (WS 11). and the challenge to the vanishing Indian ideology of genocide represented by Captain Amherst.’ taking possession of native land. Interestingly. At the bottom of his heart he never truly shifted to an indigenous self. It presents a character who alters his/her characteristic features/identity primarily on the basis of a fake/stereotypical Indian image. protection. austere and sceptical—a moral rebuke to English dissolution. friendship. Johnson would rather justify only the right of those who are able and ready to understand and live on the frontier of two cultures to obtain the benefits. his character challenges and at the same time reconstructs the validity not only of the Noble Savage stereotype but also of Manifest Destiny. the natural right of white Europeans to ‘spread civilization over North America. He shared many of the pitfalls of European colonists and urged a mutual recognition of needs. and last but not least. Such over-generalized negative features include snobbish dismissal of the “supposed nobility of Europe (WS 12)”. and uniquely employed strategies have created an immortal figure on the borderlands of cultural encounters. The Native Americans lose their indispensable appeal and become burdensome problems to get rid of: in the European view at the time. lurking in the night with designs of irrational and unprovoked violence. His personal motivations are explained in the following excerpt: 109 . there was an ideological stigma alteration: Noble Savages became Vanishing Indians in the European imagination. however. while his “white self” still lived in the service of Westminster and owned 170. a speculative profit and wealth oriented nature (WS 37). discursive passing. In this sense.features. He had three intertwined lives: first. perhaps it is even more important to see that the values and features sought and longed for in the indigene represent precisely the set of features that one considers mistaken or lost in European culture. 3/ The Defamiliarization of Whiteness and a Critical View on European Culture The imaginary native of these stories is the embodiment of projected desires. They were also savage creatures of the night.e. there is a long list of the negative features of European culture that occasionally also seems to be equally over-generalizing and stigmatizing. 4/ Ambiguity Sir William Johnson. O’Toole presents some Indians in London (Ch 2). many children and a large mixed-race. obligations and common humanity (WS 234). His unique lifestyle was a representation of the effective merging of sexual and colonial politics. violence. As for this “natural right” of colonial expansion.000 acres of land in North America. very much like the above mentioned stereotypical images of the natives. A tangible example is the well-known close-to-nature notion cherished by the environmentalist Grey Owl syndrome people. Johnson embodies an additional strange ambiguity: the notions of “providential success” and Manifest Destiny. alliance. “the man between. and manipulation. i. After the Treaty of Paris. widespread moral erosion (WS 81). too: in a way he was a projection of European sexual desires. among many other closely related women of different backgrounds. a Mohawk wife Molly Brant.

Behind this fascination was the search of a way out of chaos. He had come to live a life in which multiple historical forces—the fall of Gaelic Ireland and the rise of Protestant Britain, the ambitions of a European exile and the Iroquois struggle for survival, the reality of conflict and the dream of civility—were in constant motion. Competing visions of the world spun around him. They met but did not always cohere, and were kept from collision only by the force of his own multi-layered personality. (WS 100) His last paradoxical goal of defining a fixed border between Indian and white territories was achieved under the Royal Proclamation of 1763. “The racially pure embodiment of American values who is yet at home in the wilderness because he had adopted the best of Indian culture. An American with white skin but Indian dress, Christian decency but Indian simplicity, European accomplishments but Indian skills, would have the right to take the West (WS 339).” A closer look at the hybrid nature of Johnson’s character reveals constant resonances of various ambiguities: he was a combination of “English gentility with exotic barbarity (WS 15),” a mediator between the Indians and colonizers, a master not only of Gaelic, English and Mohawk languages but also of religious and ethnic pragmatism (WS 23, 25, 27, 309), and at the peak of his public career an indispensable conciliator, negotiator, and mediator who was constantly working both ways in “a world of hidden layers and quiet undercurrents (WS 29),” apparent contradictions and uncertain loyalties (WS 28). In the identity vacuum of his borderland personality, Johnson’s “middle ground of cultural diplomatic and economic exchange (WS 246)” was threatened from both sides. Nonetheless, “he became the fixed point around which a storm of contradictory emotions could spin. He inspired disgust and envy. He embodied the fear of pollution and the excitement of erotic freedom; base abandonment to the unregulated desires of the savages and the natural, fecund impulse of life amid the putrefaction of war and death (WS 103).” His role as a mediator is more dynamic than for instance that of the hybrids by birth, which is why I refer to him as a chameleon/swinger shifter. His unfading moral ambivalence contrasts him with value-oriented shifters, more simple Indian “wannabes”, like the Grey Owl Syndrome people. He is a semi-integration of Mohawk and British in the same person, never absolutely compact in any of his roles, but always a bit more than any one, and always incorporating features of the Other, as well.

Conclusion Stories of trans-culturation depict “process where one gives something in exchange for getting something; the two parts of the equation are thereby modified. A new reality is produced. Transculturation is in a state of constant transmutation (Vautier 269).” Larsen: The White - separates, transfers and does not wish to return - initial refusal, then acceptance - emotionally moved - one-way - profound changes in her personality, identity O’Toole: The White Savage - does not clearly separate, his transfer is uncertain, hesitant, temporary and superficial (e.g. no marriage), he consciously selects traits, manipulates others with his image, very powerful actor/wizard - two-way - rational -swinger shifter/dynamic - no fundamental change in personality - Biographical, more traditional approach, but also aware of the epistemological relativism of historical traces - Recognizes the complexity of the Other Literally critical about European ignorance, manners, ways of thinking, especially racism - Practical-minded, manipulative (masculine, ambitious, conquers and utilizes the Other colonial superiority

Process (rituals of separation/ transfer/ return or refuse to repatriate)

post-colonial discourse

De-familiarization of whiteness Ambivalence/ambiguity

- Did not intend to recreate a story, rather to invent, write fiction - Heroine less consciously critical about identity formulation Implied criticism: does not wish to return (like Dunbar in Dances with Wolves) - Morally not ambivalent victim position - Less aware, especially in
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early phases of identity transformation - Non-manipulative victim (passive—active) (feminine, fragile, less clearly oriented, except for the last stage, gives in to external forces colonial inferiority implied) - Primarily non-selective - Her new personality organically develops out of the confusion of the we-they disparity fuse/incorporate/enrich

implied) - Morally ambivalent victim position - His personality is not fundamentally altered, rather: incorporates new traits on a selective basis and then eventually activates the components required by the given situation requires for the most effective outcome acquire/select/activate/exploit

What James Clifton calls an “alternative subculture available for inspection, testing, and at least temporary affiliation (Clifton 277)” is a different way of life for Johnson/Warraghiagey and Mary/Two-Falling-Voices. Both experience the essential “ambivalences of identification, antagonistic identities of political alienation and cultural discrimination (Bhabha 119),” as well as some undeniable benefits of others’ inability to pigeonhole such characters of ambiguous ethno-cultural identity. As the examples of these two novels present, ethno-cultural ambiguity is an essential feature of indigenization, regardless of the different motivations, circumstances, or actual processes of ethnic transfer. However, ambiguity is not necessarily ambivalence. While the fusion of personality traits thought of as characteristic of or innate to a particular race/community makes the shape shifter’s personality uniquely ambiguous but not highly successful in either culture, personal ambitions are reachable only in the individual sphere and less in the broader social framework. Nevertheless, when s/he does not clearly commit him/herself to either the original or new cultural affiliation, the result seems to be an ambivalent person whose identity and image is confusing and is primarily seen as controversial, even if that character can effectively utilize his/her bicultural knowledge and skills.

References Bhabha, Homi. 1993. “Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche and the Colonial Condition.” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. Eds. P. Williams and L. Chrisman. New York: Harvester. 11223. Print. Clifton, James A. 1989. Being and Becoming Indian: Bibliographical Studies of North-American Frontiers. Chicago: The Dorsey P. Costner, Kevin dir. 1990. Dances with Wolves. Ghosh-Schellhorn, Martina. 1994. “Transcultural Intertextuality and the White Creole Woman.” Across the Lines. ASNEL Papers 3. Amsterdam: Rodope. 177-90. Print. Goldstein, Jay E. 1985. “The Prestige Dimension of Ethnic Stratification.” R. M. Bienvenue and J.E. Goldstein. Ethnicity and Ethnic Relations in Canada. Toronto: Butterworks. 181-5. Print. Kadar, Judit Agnes. 2003. “Fictional In-Betweenness in Deborah Larsen’s The White.” Americana. Szeged: U Szeged online publication. Larsen, Deborah. 2002 The White. New York: Knopf. Print. Nakagawa, Anne Marie dir. 2005. Between: Living in the Hyphen. NFB . O’Toole, Fintan. 2005. White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print. Vautier, Marie. 2003. “Religion, Postcolonial Side-by-Sidedness, and la transculture.” In Is Canada Postcolonial? Ed. Laura Moss. Waterloo, ON.: W. Lauriel UP. 279-81. Print.
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From Bildungsroman to Assimilation Narrative–Three Chicano Novels
Tamás Vraukó

The Mexicans living in the USA have been struggling with a wide range of negative stereotypes and clichés deeply embedded in mainstream American literature and public thinking since times long before the treaty of Guadelupe-Hidalgo. Literature has been added to social protest and political movements as a means of fighting the negative ideas concerning their community. For constraints of space, the present paper focuses on Chicano novel, deals with poetry very briefly and does not include other genres of Chicano literature, e.g. the Campesino Theatre. As Leal and Barrón (1983: 23) assert, “The most effective form for the literature of social protest has been the novel.” Prejudice and stereotypy often experienced in the U. S. in connection with African Americans and several other national/cultural/religious minorities are well known and have become part of public thinking. Considerable efforts have been made to dispel such prejudice. Much less is known about how these factors work in connection with the Chicanos. In this paper examples are provided of stereotypes and clichés attached to the Chicanos and Chicanas by the Anglo-Saxon population and, in contrast, of the ways authors of Mexican-American ethnic background tend to look at their own community. Using some other examples as well, three novels will be discussed in more detail, as they are characteristic examples of how Chicanos have reacted to the circumstances they live under in the U.S., and their efforts aimed at finding a place within their own community, traditions, and in mainstream American life. Special attention will be devoted to the ways Chicanas are presented by Chicano authors, as female members of the family have different roles in the Chicano community than in Anglo life. Another reason why Chicanas are important because when the male protagonists make any progress–bildung–it is often because female members of the family create a solid background for them. Although more and more attention is focussed on the Chicano community, and an extensive and expanding sociological, cultural and historical literature is devoted to the Mexican Americans, they are relatively less known outside the U.S. than several other ethnic groups. In spite of various encyclopaedias and other sources making efforts to provide concise definitions of who and what Chicanos are, it is not always easy for the layman to find a straightforward and reliable entry on Mexican Americans. If we look up for instance the Concise Dictionary of American History (1983) or Tomasz Jurczynski’s Dictionary of the United States (1995) in search of a definition of the word Chicano, we will not find one. The explanations that various other dictionaries used by scholars and students provide mention that the word is a misspelled or modified version of the Spanish word Mejicano, and the term Chicano is now applied to the Mexicans living in the United States. By the end of the 20th century the old and widespread notion of America as a melting pot vanished. The "pot" seems to have been unable to "melt" the multitude of national, ethnic and religious groups and communities into one standard mass. As Virágos (1999: 5) asserts in the title of one of his essays, America has arrived ”From Melting Pot to Boiling Pot.” After the turmoil of World War II, people belonging to various ethnic and religious groups began to pay more attention to their cultural background and heritage than ever before. People arriving on the crests of new and new waves of immigration find it natural to seek the company of their own nationality, where they expect assistance for a start in the new world. New immigrants and second or third-generation members of an ethnic or religious community make efforts to preserve or resurrect their own culture. As the ethnic groups have slowly become more organized and coherent, their political awareness increased, and they began to recognize their own in-group priorities within American society. In the last decades of the twentieth century, technical inventions such as computerized newspaper publishing made it possible to print the same newspaper at different places, thousands of miles from the editorial office at the same time, making papers available to distant members of a community. Satellite television and radio and the world wide web conveyed information to small groups and even to individual people who had formerly been isolated from the bulk of their respective nations or ethnic groups. Preserving the native language and native culture is now also much easier than it used to be. Finding and contacting other members of a community have become easier, as an increasing number of
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cultural.]. and the place is full of enthusiastic people converting the sleepy border town into a flourishing settlement. the “fresh-cut bank of the Rio Grande” (Crane 1974: 745) circles near the town. vanish. In Hall’s Dime Novels. Although it was not new technology in itself that instigated the process of national or ethnic reunion. Mexican women. Ronald Takaki (1993: 176) describes that some sort of a “manifest masculine destiny” goes back to the days of the Mexican war: American men bragged how they were displaying their prowess in the Southwest not only on the battlefield but also in bed.. intense attention has been focussed on the ethnic. or than the attention they would deserve after their number and share in the total population. graceful creatures of a different culture. A poem.” ”Receptive” means that it was also believed that the morals of the Catholic Mexican women.” Stephen Crane’s short story titled “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” is set on the new border between Mexico and the U. students. Sociologists. native Americans etc. The general image of Mexicans in the way of thinking of the Anglos has been predominantly negative. even at times before. they do not flee–they disappear.’” Hall’s Dime Novels were a series of cheap. the emergence of Spanish-language media is a result of the national and ethnic revival and a catalyst of further development at the same time. They are no longer involved in the affairs of this land. or a flight ticket. it appears to be extremely difficult to eradicate some old stereotypes and prejudice rooted deeply in the thinking of the mainstream society. One is about the “sound of a tumult like the fighting of two hundred Mexicans. culture and customs of these minorities. published by Beadle & Adam after 1859. inept Mexican men was to sink deep into American racial mythology. They are often described as mysterious señoritas of exotic beauty. In addition to this. receptive Mexican women and lazy.S. There are two brief references to Mexicans in the story and neither one is very positive.” she points out that the sheer numbers in which they were produced made them able to expand patriotic feelings and enthusiasm in a whole generation. boasted: 113 . and attend the meetings of their respective communities or simply visit each other more often than before.. and their relationship and connections to the majority groups. patriotic stories. The reason why Crane deals with the Chicanos. religious. As Horsman (1981: 234) points out. The Mexicans do not simply run away from trouble–they do not walk out of the saloon. on the other hand. Negative images of Mexicans are by no means limited to “pseudoliterature. protestant civilization. African Americans. but especially since the Mexican War in the middle of the 19th century. It seems that certain minorities receive less attention than others. evaporate like ghosts in the air–and they do it through the back door of the bar. As a result. Mexican women were allegedly more open and ready for relationships with men than Anglo women. is that this border was relatively new–only half a century old–when Crane wrote his story in 1898. although this term was not used in those days. They immediately disappear when something disturbing happens: “The two Mexicans at once sat down their glasses and faded out of the rear entrance of the saloon. a villain who could not be trusted. published during the Mexican War. “The stereotype of exotic. were imagined and depicted in a more positive way–at least as far as their external appearance is concerned. whose entire civilization attributed great significance to religion and family. Mexicans are only feeble ghosts here. “Authors in the years following the war saw the MexicanAmerican as more devious and treacherous than cruel and bloodthirsty. were not as strict as that of the Anglo-Saxon.. As Rocard (1989: 18) observes. history.” (Crane 1974: 745) There is nothing dignified about their departure. sexual and other minorities of America. however. This is here the new frontier..” (1974: 749) Crane does not explain why he believes that Mexicans fight any noisier than any other nationality.people who are members of ethnic groups that used to be traditionally less wealthy than the national average. The idea was probably dictated by the strong belief in the cultural-moral superiority of the protestant Anglo-Saxon civilization that looked upon Catholicism as a hypocritical religion. journalists and other professionals study the life. not uniform and equally intense in the case of all the ethnic communities. The publishers selected authors for their knowledge of the Southwest rather than for their literary talent. movie makers. a ‘back-stabber’ [.] The Mexican was portrayed as a born traitor. The attention that various ethnic groups receive is. can now afford a car. historians. [.A. every Mexican was ‘villainous-looking’ and ‘serpent-eyed.. Although Rocard (1989: 4) believes that these writings were “third-rate” and “pseudoliterature.

She is a curandera. green-eyed Irish women were regarded as less virtuous than English women. looking to the Eastern sky. It is in this environment that young Antonio grows up. but at least more understandable–a pretty and sensuous woman arouses men’s sexual desire. however.’” (Anaya 1994: 3) The mother. Helen Hunt Jackson in her Ramona depicts a more positive image of the Mexicans living California. initiates steps to receive somebody in need. Although the woman is raped. meaning wood dove. Nobody is left alone when too old or ill to take care of himself or herself: “’Gabriel. Her “We Call Them Greasers” is a fine example of what Raymund Paredes (1982: 47) describes as “Nothing exercised the poets [.] and his relationship with his spiritual guide. but charming–if artificial–creatures.” (Webb on the Internet) Gloria Anzaldúa (b. She is not attractive enough to raise the desire of her rapers: she is but a dull and ugly peasant woman: in that instant I felt such contempt for her round face and beady black eyes like an Indian's (Anzaldúa on the Internet) Anzaldúa turns the Anglos’ negative stereotypes against them. treacherous greasers. 1942). Antonio even finds it difficult to accept Christian faith and Última’s 114 . it is not done for sexual pleasure. and the father agrees. One of the first classic novels of Chicano literature is Bless Me. A beautiful woman would make the crime of rape.. It is made clear by showing that the woman is not the enchanting beauty of romantic stereotypes. a relatively well-protected world of the family. at the end of which the brutal rape and murder of a Mexican woman and the lynching of a Mexican man follows.] like the subject of Anglo prejudice. if not more pardonable.The Spanish maid. not the case here. In the novel people live in harmony with each other and with the natural environment around them. thus calling public attention to Mexican Americans. Ramona merges her Mexican and Indian heritage into harmony when she adapts the Indian name majel. and Paredes calls the characters created by Helen Hunt Jackson “not swarthy..” The importance of family ties as a central point in the value system of the Chicanos is made clear in the very first pages of the book. The novel is summed up briefly by Shirley and Shirley (1988: 105) in the following way: ”[it] is concerned with the maturation of a young boy [. the victim of the rape. The relationship between natives and Mexicans was in reality far from idyllic.. This is. After all. Última by Rudolfo Anaya. that is “the way of our people. we cannot let her live her last days in loneliness…’” “‘No.. and the Mexicans are no longer able to make themselves at home in the land that was originally their own. religion is also a central part in the life of the community.’” The world of Última is the closed. the Última of the title.’” my father agreed. It makes the whole crime even more abominable and despicable. where people know their place and the community takes care of them. the popular Chicana poetess of the 1980s and 1990s also writes about injustice suffered by her people from the Anglos. In addition to family bonds. At balmy evening turns her lyre And. The woman does not attract the attention of any man. the book that roused the popular mind to the sorry state of the [enslaved] conquered race and led to a change of policy in dealing with it. and the reason for her rape is sheer hatred and a desire to humiliate her and her husband. is not a romanticized beauty. but in order to humiliate her and her man before they die. and adds the Spanish feminine ending: Majella.” In this poem Anzaldúa provides a bitterly ironic collection of all the negative clichés and stereotypes the “gringos” have about the Chicanos in a dark and depressing poem. and the only problem is that the Yankees conquered the land. ‘It is not the way of our people. The woman. with eye of fire.”(Paredes 1982: 51) Dottie Webb in her on-line notes on Jackson quotes Wyck Van Brooks who says that Jackson intended “to write the romance that paralleled Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Awaits our Yankee chivalry Whose purer blood and valiant arms Are fit to clasp her budding charms (Takaki 1996: 176-177) Similar was the attitude of Victorian Englishmen to Irish women: red-haired. a dispenser of curing herbs and potions who also heals with spiritual advice and some “'magic. whose ages-old task is keeping up the family and preserving its integrity at all times. a wise woman.

bad nerves and high blood pressure. In his novel there is no wise magician to assist the hero on his way–he has to run his own race. When the hero listens to ‘his people’ he is listening to his mother. She had thyroid problems. and from the aspect of the daily life and work of the family. close relationships outside the family are mostly with age peers.. Finally he finds satisfaction in believing that both religion and Última’s witchcraft serve good purposes.. [. There are many more of those who work against him directly or indirectly.] is the norm [.. a wage earner–in the family.] diabetes. until Rodriguez will at the end be able to offer his own positive experience to his son. [.. a permanent partner. The mother in Rodriguez's novel matches the traditional Chicana mother who.. They expect a lot from it. This is also the story of a young boy's way to maturity. he was ejected by the system–made it easier for him to grow up to be a man within his own original world.] in her thirties. a reliable and respected man of his community. but she had all the ailments. they are no longer really interested. financial and other. hovering somewhere in the background. as Mama. Such was máchismo. Male and female roles tend to be clearly proscribed. Rodriguez's novel is based upon his own life. long-suffering mother. [.] she was overweight and suffered from [. One of the characters who always support young Luis without reservations is his mother. Berg is discussing traditional Mexican family values in connection with movies. but when they realize that not much attention is paid to the specific needs of Chicanos. The circumstance that Antonio was not very deeply integrated in the school life of the Anglos–in fact. As he grows older. and the other is the lack of a man–a husband. with her ability to keep the family together. Another novel that rapidly received great acclaim is Always Running–La Vida Loca: Gang Days in Los Angeles by Luis Rodriguez. but the differences between the two novels are as great as the similarities. keeps the family together. and therefore education was not the same thing to them as to Anglos. Such an occasion is when the boys go to school. She didn't even have teeth. the characters of the novel are rarely exposed to it. She was still young then [. it was in fact a sign of their masculinity. The family remains the most important unit. Somehow. but they did not care much about the children or the women.. These values are described by Harry H.] and held up the family when almost everything else came apart. Women described in novels and short stories often suffer under a double burden: one is the generally underprivileged situation of the Chicanos. His work was published two decades after Anaya's work. on the peripheries of the story. She is. against all difficulties. In the barrio.] and the typical way ethnic mothers are portrayed in Hollywood movies in general. the role of the father is different..] Despite this she worked all the time. often found in stereotypical images of Mexican women: Mama always seemed to be sick. the problems of the children.. máchismo used to mean that men were allowed to have relationship with other women outside marriage. a father of their children. The barrio was a place that distorted many of the basic values of the Chicanos. the mother is usually described in the same way. he shoulders more and more responsibility. raise the children. In this situation the mother becomes what Charles Ramirez Berg (1992: 38) describes as follows: The naive. even outside marriage. not the romantic beauty with the ravenblack hair.alleged powers as a witch at the same time. 115 . and he is accepted as a grown-up man. the father is an unimportant character. masculinity (machismo) is of great importance.. but his observations are applicable to literature as well. The outside world is a distant place. (Rodriguez 1993: 23) The last sentence is particularly important. in the traditions of his people. good-natured. Anaya's novel was published in 1972 to become one of the most widely known and best-selling Chicano literary works. L.. but most of them did not desert their families. will be one of the cyclically returning images throughout the whole novel.. and there are in fact very few who help him. he has not deserted the family. [. Originally. But when the father is present.. and serve the needs of the men. Kitano (1991: 139) as follows: The women are expected to cook. masculine pride for grownup men often meant that they had many children from many different women. In the assimilation narrative the mother figure serves as the font of genuine ethnic values and the protagonist’s (and the narrative’s) cultural conscience. and he received prizes for non-fiction.. however. they supported and provided for wife and children..

You have to pay for it.. This became routine with us. whenever somebody appears to have a chance of breaking out. There are other nationalities there as well. they very often struggle with the language.' 'I don't mind that. apart from the fully justified complaint that the educational authorities did not provide for proper Spanish-language education. But the first thing–and one of the most important–that we learn about the barrio is that it is not exclusively a Spanish-speaking community. Here one could easily desert his family. but we surrounded them and forced them to fork over some bills. theft and street fighting. The barrio.. Lencho kicked one of them in the ass. a highly controversial issue in the novel. Police action is. often disappointing for many young people–both girls and boys–who were frequently barely older than a young child. The barrio Luis lives in is deeply embedded in a big city. Two uniformed officers rushed out. police action is not regarded by the pachucos as an act of law enforcement and a retaliation for something that is not right–it always remains harassment. the barrio with is misery.. For young people the lack of any sexual education meant that introduction into sexual life was often a painful and frustrating experience. (Rodriguez 1993: 95) Rodriguez does not explain what he thinks about interrelation between poverty and petty crime. the cops don't beat up people. as a child. relatively isolated from an unfriendly and not receptive but remote mainstream America. Korea and Taiwan also moved into the area. as opposed to the slums of the immigrants.] The barrios which were not incorporated [. because poverty is just as important a fact in bringing people to the barrio as nationality: “large numbers of Asians from Japan. mugging.]. Explanation comes later in the novel: 'You stole from me. deprivation.For a young man. On this side of town. and any chance of finding a decent job and earning a middle-class salary is good education. The third recurrent image–or rather event–is the drop-out of school. providing for adequate Spanish education would have been just one possible solution. Whenever the people from the Hill made it down to Monterey [. the police departments [. In fact. As they ran off. and survive. Luis is not growing up in his own community. they are offended that they are treated as juvenile criminals. Still. This is the case on page 95. while distorts traditional values. however. Suddenly a Monterey Park police car drove by and stopped. where the betrayal of the family was the gravest crime... also acts like a trap–several times. Paying more attention to teaching English with special and effective methodology to those whose mother tongue was different. as he tells several stories when. what is more. [.] became self-contained and forbidden..] made a habit to roust us out.” (Rodriguez 1993: 40-41) “Incorporated” means that a town has its own public services and utilities and normal housing conditions–middle-class. thus becoming a serious offender. Young Luis's life is spent in a way a natural part of which is petty crime–burglary. [. the cops don't stop you for no reason.. Sections of Monterey Park and even San Gabriel became known as Little Japans or Chinatowns. but he described the risks of this way of life.' one of them ordered. and even when they are juvenile criminals. They don't be hitting you in the head. the sole reason for which is racial. The drop-out of school has more tragic consequences for Luis than it was for Antonio in Anaya’s novel. The drop-out is usually the end of a hopeless.. At these passages Rodriguez does not make any comments and does not suggest any solution. could have been another way of addressing the problem. but this apparently did not happen either. 'Hold it right there. and the police appears on the scene: They started to run. when they mug a group of youngsters. It seems that for decades (Anglo-)American school boards and police departments behaved as if they had 116 . affords a rather sad image of the woeful shortcomings of the American educational system. The naturalistic description of such scenes in the book indicate that this experience was very often not very romantic. he was very close to committing a murder. The fact that for decades nothing really happened in recognition of the educational needs of one of the largest ethnic groups in America. the punishment for which was contempt or even death.. effort to catch up with the mainstream society.] We turned and walked down Hellman Avenue.. incubators of rebellion. A similarly hindering factor is police harassment–Chicanos are often subject to arbitrary and excessively rude police action. (Rodriguez 1993: 144) At school most Chicano boys and girls do not have an adequate preliminary education. On this side of town. prejudice and petty crime prevents him or her from succeeding. or sometimes not completely hopeless. A barrio is not rural or small-town America. trying to make you mad so you do something you regret later. identification with a gang began to replace identification with a family. The problem is we end up paying more for the same thing than other people do.

. Luis received another impetus that helped him continue his own personal Bildungsroman. covered it the best I could while the kicks seemed to stuff me beneath a parked car. I dog-eared it. (Rodriguez 1993: 120) At similar scenes Rodriguez does not provide his own comments or explanations– when he was 15. a Puerto Rican brother.. More cops came but they too were pelted. It was recognized by social organizations. Luis discovers for himself that art and literature may be a point of breakout of his miserable situation.. What made it especially difficult for him to understand this was the generally hostile atmosphere. is close to becoming a way of life in Rodriguez’s barrio. We assumed that more police and firepower were coming. The ambulance took Carlitos and sped off. help was offered.. agreeing with the owners of the property. But the reader will soon forget that.' Hey Boy became my new name. I worked as a bus boy in a Mexican restaurant in San Gabriel when I was 15 years old. (Rodriguez 1993: 110) Violence. In addition to being increasingly nauseated by the violence and destruction. MEChA for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán and many more. it was “fine with him” to be expelled from school.. one has to undergo a similarly cruel “inauguration” ritual. [. The ritual has its own choreography. when reads lines like these: Topo swung a calloused fist at my face. And I loved fighting.] We carried thick plastic trays heaped with dirty dishes. bottles and debris. This was fine with me. They believed that all they had to do was wait. in their own grotesque and bizarre way.. I went down fast.. and under the suspicious and contemptuous eyes of the librarian he selected books for himself: And then there was Piri Thomas. which occurred in the form of rare and tragic events in Anaya’s novel. hard work. Several of these organizations exist today. I thought I would be able to swing and at least hit one or two–but no way! Then I [.].] It was kicking. but community and educational programmes were launched and those who were ready and willing to accept it. On top of page 120 of the novel Luis is glad that he is fired from school–at the bottom of the page he regrets that he has to do a dirty and humiliating job. A real revelation for Luis was literature. some dignity. this searing work of a 117 . and providing paint and brushes to the participants in the programme.] Hands came at me to congratulate. America began to learn new abbreviations: UMAS for United Mexican American Students. and did not understand that lack of education was equal to getting nothing but dirty jobs.. a common activity among barrio boys. and they soon made efforts to organize the painters by selecting walls. and the preparations have.' 'Hey boy. copied whole passages so I wouldn't forget their texture. poured water into glasses. but not before receiving a barrage of rocks. the players know their parts. and all the social. We find abundant descriptions of violence and destruction in the novel: “Things soon exploded.] pulled my arms over my head. and these people would disappear. the authorities finally realized that there was something wrong. the passion.believed that the presence of “foreigners” in their country was a transitory phenomenon. Soon the police pulled out. Then an onslaught of steel-tipped shoes and heels rained on my body. provided extra coffee–and took abuse from the well-to-do people who came there. First he paints murals. It happened at the time when the Chicano Movement first appeared. relieving the majority society of all obligation to do something for them. There were pats on the back.. The process was hampered by several setbacks.” (Rodriguez 1993: 96) In order to become a member of a gang. clean up this mess. cleaned up tables. One is the absolutely senseless violence of the gang warfare. There are two factors in the novel that finally pushed Rodriguez towards the first efforts at finding some sort of a solution to his apparently hopeless life. un camarada de aquellas: His book Down These Mean Streets became a living Bible for me. how about some more water. [. [. I hated school. Those of us still in school were expelled. 'Hey boy. A major confrontation erupted [. As a result of the gang wars and the increasing crime rate. Finally the barrage stopped. wrote in it. the prejudice that deprived them of equal opportunities at schools. He went to the library. and paid more attention to the problems of the Chicanos. educational and other problems with them..

(Romero on the Internet) The avoidance of the word barrio may come from the fact that Cisneros grew up in Chicago. On the contrary–finding their own identity. Many Mexican-American families live in the barrio. when backed by knowledge of one's roots. Chicano poetry. He needed his own will.” as described in the ”Notes about the author” at the end of the novel. Campesino Theatre and Chicano prose all call for action–and as Leal and Barrón (1983: 13) put it. What Romero claims about the description of the conflicts between Anglo and Latino cultures is clear in ”Never Marry a Mexican. Her memories about her father are either neutral–he used to shave in front of the mirror while listening to music–or explicitly negative. creating literature and arts based on their own traditions help them in fighting for their rights and due place in American society more effectively. the Movement in itself was not sufficient. that is. (Rodriguez 1993: 138) Here. Luis Rodriguez was lucky as he came of age together. that is. his own determination to change things for the better. when discussing her experience about teaching Cisneros to international students is that ”One potential source of discomfort for students is Cisneros's manifestly feminist sensibility. similarly to Rodriguez’s work. “Action is much more effective. but in the barrio they are unable to do so. when his snoring at night disturbed the others. ”Never Marry a Mexican” for Cisneros is perhaps never marry at all–she is single. present in Cisneros's writing. They are supposed to provide their families with American living standards. and at other parts of the novel.” (Cisneros 1991: 29) The suffering mother appears together with the image of the man who fails as a provider for the family. is highly autobiographical. The Chicanos do long for America and all the positive things American way of life has to offer and it does not mean that they want to give up their identity. As Romero points out. of course. Cisneros’ ambitions are primarily personal–she longs for a personal American dream: a decent middle-class lifestyle. Rodriguez often refers to the place they used live in as barrio. where the Hispanic community was smaller than in the cities of the Southwest. does not have a husband and children–”nobody’s mother and nobody’s wife. not any different from any barrio: a rundown neighbourhood with small and crowded houses with many people with Hispanic names in it. This is what makes Luis’s story a real Bildungsroman. At the end of the book the Spanish terms are explained in alphabetical order. His efforts to catch up with the mainstream of American society seem to refute what Nobel Prizewinning Mexican author Octavio Paz says about the pachuco not wanting to become a part of American life. whereas Cisneros does not. Conflicts between Anglo and Latino cultures are.” Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street aims at less than Rodriguez’s novel. but we learn from Rodriguez that many other nationalities living in poverty and deprivation share the barrio with Hispanics. whereas the woman is kind and attractive: 118 . the district populated primarily by Hispanic people. in fact hand in hand with the Chicano Movement. more interested in detailing the dynamics of her own community rather than representing conflicts between Anglo-Americans and Mexican-Americans. Clemencia leaves their middle-class home to go to the barrio when her mother marries a ”white” man.street dude and hype in Spanish Harlem–a barrio boy like me. Still. Where there is no reason for blaming a man for ignoring his family. The reason why fathers are relatively unimportant characters in both Rodriguez’ and Cisneros’ works is perhaps that they fail as providers. and who cries every day for the man who left without even leaving a dollar for bologna or a note explaining how come. Codeswitching is also characteristic in Anaya’s novel. on the other side of America. a northern city. The story. What we find in the novel is however. the man is simply ugly and repulsive. we also find code-switching that is used here to create an atmosphere.” the heroine of which. and how can they help it with only one mother who is tired all the time from buttoning and bottling and babying.” (Rodriguez 1993: 212) Integration does not necessarily mean assimilation. financial stability. In her novel not even the word barrio is used. Rodriguez makes it clear when he says. Some students may accuse her (as they would accuse virtually any other feminist writer) of ’man-bashing. “It's about time we become part of America. typically. a non-Mexican person. good education for the children.’” (Romero on the Internet) It is difficult to escape that conclusion when we read descriptions which suggest that men are the reason for somebody’s being bad and miserable: ”They are bad those Vargases. but they often take the form of encounters between relatively assimilated Latinos and relatively unassimilated ones. perhaps because Cisneros is. Esperanza has positive memories of her mother only.

edu”/gjay/Multicult/anzaldua. Última! Always Running House on Mango Street Feature Mother as central figure ****** ****** ** Code switching ****** ****** * Violence ** ****** * Rude language * **** Dreams ****** ****** Religion ****** - References Anaya. Norton. His feet fat and doughy like tamales. 1991. 1979. the Assimilation Narrative.” Internet: www. "Never Marry A Mexican.). if from nothing else. (Cisneros 1991: 39) It does not occur to the author that a man may also suffer. personal desires to be satisfied.W.The grandpa slept on the living room couch and snored through his teeth. “We Call Them Greasers. Her desires are strictly personal. has not become lesbian. 68-83. This is pure assimilation: personal goals. Horsman. Berg. many women wearing the T-shirts of the Latinos Unidos fought for their rights side by side with men. As an increasing number of Chicanos elevate themselves to middle class status. New York: Warner Books. 2. Charles Ramirez. Edited by Nina Baym. Anzaldúa. Inc. Chicanas become more ”emancipated” as it is regarded by the mainstream society. The Origins of American Racial AngloSaxonism. but she wore them anyway because they were pretty. At the end of the novel Cisneros longs for a house of her own. University of Minnesota Press. Chon Noriega (ed. leaving behind her cultural and ethnic heritage. Gloria. Vol. and more and more of them adopt values of the Anglo middle class. During the demonstrations against the new immigration laws in the streets of the cities of California a few years ago. 1991. Reginald. “Bordertown. Rudalfo. 1981. Última. Cisneros. A house all my own.” In The Norton Anthology of American Literature. including her heritage.” Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. but her rejection of the male sex makes her live alone. my pretty purple petunias. The grandma’s feet were lovely as pink pearls and dressed in velvety high heels that made her walk with a wobble. New York: Random House. with all the negative and positive features and examples including. New York: Vintage Books. New York: W. et al. and entirely giving up the role of the mother as the person keeping the family together would probably be the same as giving up one of the most important core elements of Hispanic cultural heritage. then from some disease. My books and my stories. 1992. Crane. 2003.” (Cisneros 1991: 108) In the case of Cisneros. The House on Mango Street. 1994. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sandra. 741-50. Sandra. 119 . But these were ethnic-conscious demonstrations– as turning away from old family values. and makes it clear what kind of a house it is going to be: ”Not a man’s house. she does not mind melting up in American society. Cisneros. ”The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky. (…) Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.uwm. With a porch and my pillow. Race and Manifest Destiny. Luis wanted to leave poverty and deprivation. and he powdered and stuffed into white socks and brown leather shoes. Cisneros. 3 vols.htm Accessed: January 9. unlike Anzaldúa. it functions well.It is possible to sum up the similarities and difference between the three novels in the form of a chart: Novel Bless me." Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. It is likely that we find fewer and fewer mothers suffering and serving the way described by Berg and Kitano. Bless Me. Stephen. Minneapolis. Not a daddy’s. -. the melting pot does not fail to melt. and the Chicano Problem Film. Esperanza wanted to leave behind her entire former life.

Lora. Webb. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Michigan. Edited by Lehel Vadon. Always Running. 1 . Gang Days in L. Shirley. 1999. The Children of the Sun: Mexican Americans in the Literature of the United States.traverse.hmco. “From Melting Pot to Boiling Pot: Observations on the American Multicultural Scene. Raymund A.” In Three American Literatures. Romero. Internet: http://www. 5-20. Zsolt K.com/people/dot/jackson.com/english/heath/syllabuild/iguide/cisnero. A Different Mirror. Edited by Houston A. Accessed: April 24. University of South Columbia: Carolina Press. Ronald. 33-80. New York: MLA. Rocard. Luis and Pepe Barrón.p.” In Three American Literatures. Eger: Károly Eszterházy College of Higher Education. Translated from French by Edward G. 1993. “The Evolution of Chicano Literature. 1993. Jr. New York: MLA. Carl R. H. Helen Hunt Jackson on the Web. http://college. Boston: Little.html Accessed: April 24.” In Multicultural Challenge in American Culture–Hemingway Centennial. Virágos. Edited by Houston Baker. 120 . “Chicano Literature: an Overview. Takaki. Rodriguez.the material about H.Leal. 2003. A. La Vida Loca. 9-32. Jackson is now hosted on the website of Traverse City. 1982. and Paula W. 1988.html48 . 2003. Marcienne. Brown. jr. Shirley. Baker jr. 1993. 1983. Understanding Chicano Literature. A History of Multicultural America. New York: Touchstone. Luis. Paredes.

Winston S. giving way to ambiguity and anxiety. These are: integral selfhood or personal identity. “Hours of peril” – caused by wars and the accompanying economic. Depending on the degree or shall we say depth of re-education totalitarian states. which served the primary location of eradicating ambiguity. biological. Memory and Heritage in Three Films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger Zsolt Győri A love of tradition has never weakened a nation. Churchill: His Complete Speeches (New York: Chelsea House. To fight confusion. indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril. There may be significant differences in the nature of propaganda practices depending on whether it wants to reassure the people (like in so called democratic societies) or re-educate them (as seen in totalitarian ones). Unless external assistance is offered in the regaining of selfhood and identity the personality is likely to disintegrate. Ontological insecurity is compared to the experience of utter emptiness which the individual is often incapable of filling. 7040. the world must roll forward. This may be just one amongst the many objectives of mass propaganda but it is of essential importance. It is easy to imagine how the incalculable and hostile war conditions make this “centrally firm sense” of one’s own disintegrate. Churchill who during the Second World War (and especially in 1940) delivered numerous speeches hoping to make it unmistakably clear for every single person in the country what principles and values Britain could rely on. Churchill)1 I. Robert Rhodes. Laing discusses in his book entitled The Divided Self. the values cherished become meaningless and basic existential needs remain unmet. “the permanency of things”. but the new view must come. The loss of the accustomed coordinates of finding one’s way around the world results in a situation Laing identifies as “ontological insecurity”. the cultural climate and ideological underpinnings of the institutional body (that issues it) and the general public (which receives it). James.D. which traditions should assist the British Empire in its persistence to endure the Nazi threat and how a time of prosperity would follow the victory of the Allied forces. He convincingly argues that in an accustomed and unambiguous environment “a person will encounter all the hazards of life. I believe that the psychology of social alienation may unveil one of the most important aspects why communal means of assurance is a priority. Why did Churchill spend so much of his valuable time encouraging the nation. yet one which strongly depends on the social structure. 121 . while emphatic-informative in so called democratic countries. festivals. 2 The different mode of address in regard to propaganda is evident in regard to public speeches. social.Resisting the Blimps: Ambiguity. according to Arendt. ethical.”(Laing 1990. But not only is it important to address the condition of ontological insecurity on the level of the group. Taking the geography of everyday existence into account. especially in “hours of peril”. (Winston S.. it is likewise important to achieve this in an effective way. 39) Amongst others three things characterise such a person. The aim of the latter is not to work towards a consensual reality through negotiation but through the assimilation of masses into the world of 2 ideologically formed fictions where they feel secure only as long as these fictions are maintained. 1944). the most widespread medium of propaganda during WWII were posters: dogmatically disciplinarian in totalitarian states. ambiguity and widespread disorientation the government or state authorities – who are supposedly aware of the degree and complexity of public morale – bring into motion the propaganda machinery. None should know this better than Winston S. the responsibility of which is to re-establish self-confidence and validate one’s position in relation to the world and oneself. the people? Having a instinctual talent in psychology (as most outstanding statesmen do) he understood that at a time of war the loss of human lives and material wealth brings confusion as people have to find ways to cope while their lives are turned upside down.). One particular use of propaganda is to communicate a positive selfimage both of the individual and the group. 1974). celebrations and commemorations. and “the reliability of natural processes” (ibid. difference and individuality in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. social and political crises – bring about ambiguity and disorientation. This is one key psychological phenomenon R. On the one hand we have political art while on the other hand there is what German-born philosopher Hannah Arendt calls ideological indoctrination. from a centrally firm sense of his own and other people’s reality and identity. ed. 1 Speech given in the House of Commons (November 29.

Although cultural memory conserves. the symbolic sphere of obligations that every member of the given group must share if s/he wants to become an equal member of that group. who in her essay published in the present volume gives a very concise summary of Jan Assmann’s concept of cultural memory. in short those beliefs which strengthen group binding. Especially in the case of genre films where the makers themselves are mediums of the public in that they have to be absolutely aware of the audience’s general mood. my paper concentrates on the ways they deviated from official guidelines of political propaganda. directors (most notably Hungarian émigré Alexander Korda) took up a very ambitious program of producing and often directing films that guide the spectators into the past. Well. bombarding them with series of short shots which calls forth intense. As far as the motion picture is concerned. recovered from utter ontological insecurity. The filmmakers whose lifelong collaboration produced some truly British masterpieces and numerous influential films during and after the war participated actively (although confined to the field of cinema) in the reassurance of consensual values. Cinema is an ideal medium not only for preserving (documenting) the past but for constructing an image of the past. or represents only their absolute incapability to create a “centrally firm sense” of their own. They partly do this – I may add – by superimposing an almost religious transcendence over the group which does not represent but rules over it like a superego. or shall we say. The more it does the latter the more irresistible and worthy medium of cultural memory it becomes. The guidelines underlying group integration had to be unambiguous and unchallenging. to enjoy the protective shield and stimulating environment communion offers. Looking upon the achievement of Hollywood cinema and its effectiveness to construct a consensual national past. Films were able to achieve this by defining in rather straightforward terms the basic system of values. yet easily manipulated meanings. cultural identities and the renewed framework of national self-image. And yet we cannot say that they fall within the mainstream of wartime cinema. interpreting and conserving its past and consequently determining what to remember as heritage and what to omit and forget. For further details on war documentaries see Kracauer. 122 . A Canterbury Tale (1944) and I Know Where I am Going (1945) – comprehend the role of cinema to fight ontological insecurity and underlying ambiguity and confusion. the feeling of being saved. genuine social forces cannot be excluded from the screen. to the almost mythical roots and decisive events of British history but more importantly. and the given socio-psychological climate. it possesses strong progressive elements as it links not only the past to the present but the past and the future. Without such affirmative reading of tradition the question of “who we are” could only be answered in ambiguous terms and could not propagate collective means of identification. The constructive aspect of cultural memory brings about both its reactionary and progressive applications. It would be a false assumption to regard the producer and/or director as the sole originator of such an image and application. The past was excavated to inform and bring legitimacy to the present. it is not necessarily reactionary.set out to destroy the sphere of politics . to the foundations of national unity. rules of conduct and behavioural patterns to follow. yet often pacifist historical narratives which frequently moulded the generic form of historical/period films and costume melodramas. They furthermore carry little information or form a desire to be ‘read’ by the heart rather than the mind. 275-331. Films 3 Siegfried Krakauer in his analysis of Nazi propaganda argues that documentaries portraying military action and celebrating the irresistible power of the Wehrmacht in fact launch an offensive on spectators. in fact. As the supplementary study of Kracauer’s already mentioned book convincingly argues. From Caligari to Hitler: The Psychological History of the German Film (Princeton University Press. The only addition I would make to her conclusive remarks is that cultural memory – as described by the German Egyptologist and cultural historian – is a vehicle of remembering by which a community establishes the legitimacy of its present existence through a processes of selecting. 1974). 3 II. After this short introduction. even to ease the feeling of alienation and ontological insecurity. Siegfried. let me turn to more specific issues. I will further argue that their masterpiece by the title Colonel Blimp very consciously reflects upon the general mode of propagandistic address and reveals how cinema in the early forties created a critical distance from specific trends of thirties cinema. This essay sets out to analyse how three films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). And still what people in totalitarian regimes experience is never the feeling of being ruled but just the opposite. the decade before the war saw the rise of patriotic. yet everyone shares? At this point I have to relate to the argumentation of Nóra Séllei. This was the period when cinema explored the normative social field. what can be presented as more unambiguous than the past no one can claim to know precisely.

ontological insecurity may be addressed by cinematic cultural memory either by affirming monumentality and adopting a backward-looking mentality or by affirming re-evaluation and tradition as something forward moving. was set up be Korda in 1932 and based in Denham. yet it is just as valid to suggest that cinema itself is a reflection of society: the perceptions. “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire. as its subsection with a profile of producing films primarily for the American market. III. Instead of handling personal traumas as shared burden (like most wartime films would do). concerns and wishes of a specific group. they create a false sense of security in the audience and extinguish their inner sense of alertness.” Representations 26 (1989): 13. In fact I am convinced that Powell and Pressburger made films that reveal and resist the populist and Since most immigrants (a considerable fraction of the American population) did not have any personal/family memories of the conquest of the West. testifying to the blindness of many Brits (including premier Neville Chamberlain) towards the alerting situation taking shape around them. bravery and heroism of the British. exemplified by the classical Hollywood western genre which reflects the longing of early 20th century urbanised man (and the surrounding hierarchal society) for the frontier experience and the less stratified rural life of the previous centuries. 6 London Films Ltd. a race depicted in these narratives as superior not only to the colonised natives but to other European nations as well. Nora. lasting and ambiguous. which ran Alexander Korda Films Inc. This is surely a legitimate claim in the case of generic cycles. a medium of cultural memory which allowed for the individualization of personally never lived experiences.for Kracauer reflect the most immediate social reality. and it was likewise Korda who introduced the two young men to one other and later helped start up their own film production company called The Archers. these films plunged into the heroic and glorious representations of the past. 123 4 . So it was all the more plausible for Korda – a devout supporter of the empire who even had Churchill write screenplays for him during the thirties – to make monumental cinematic memories to the unequalled courage. highly respected profession too. Both a nostalgic 4 evocation of the past and an attempt to create the historical foundation for all people American . the western cycles were highly demanded commodities of cultural memory during the Depression Era and at times of war: periods of great ontological insecurity. Service becomes an even more dominant motif in the so called empire-cycle [including Sanders of the River (1935). although would rather forget: the films in focus did not offer relief by transferring individual memory to collective/cultural memory but by celebrating the long gone capacity of the Empire to look after the well-being of all its subject. it will take shape in external forms and signifiers. Elephant Boy (1937). making its impact on British culture and also British cultural memory. 5 I believe this claim is valid even though there are exceptions. Despite the excellent working relationship with Korda their understanding of British heritage and perception of the Empire are as different as chalk to cheese. That Hamilton Woman (1941) portray history in narratives which thematise the connection between private and public spheres linked together by a strong sense of service. Without their blindness to the evolving threat. Pierre. This is true to both cycles Korda’s studio and crew can be associated with. Patriotism. which celebrate the glorious decades of the Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria. at a time when Britain had such an irresistible military force. This claim strongly relies on the observation of Pierre Nora who suggests that in case memory is lacking internal experience. the monumental representation of the national past as a reactionary-nostalgic use of cultural memory could not have become so influential. to be an active member of which must have undoubtedly been an honour. the latter – as my exemplary readings will reveal – explores and resolves ontological insecurity. Powell and Pressburger started their carrier at London Films. The Private Life of Catherine the Great (1934). The private individual in these films is bestowed with a responsibility which can only be addressed by being transformed into a public servant. it was cinema. William Cameron Menzies’ Things to Come (1936) – also produced by London Films – looks into the immediate future. And it was honourable. dignity. Traumatic memories of the Great War left many in Britain psychologically fragile and inert towards new threats. In sum. The private life cycle including The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). While the expanding Third Reich cast its shadow over Europe. predicts a major international conflict and urges a social transformation involving the containment of nationalism and the propagation of collectivism. self-constraint and strong moral sense – as the spirit of Victorian Britain – prevails in these heroic characters. In my understanding the work of Alexander Korda – similar to the western genre – undertakes an 5 6 affirmative but not a progressive reading of tradition. The Empirecycle ambiguously stood as a kind of “rotten-sanctuary” to people who were destined to remember. The former represses. The Drum (1938) and Four Feathers (1939)].

flag-waving and quick-tempered stereotypical colonel who embodies the values. the film urges viewers to break with the idealistic and short-sighted perception of the Empire as an assurance to the survival of the nation and suggests that the Blimp figure (as a central trope of group cohesion) only cherishes false pretensions. they proudly propagate (through physical location and materials used) the will “to stop time. a text which while remembering the past deconstructs or rather debunkers its monumentalism.” (Kennedy 1997. ethics and spirit of the Empire. Still. tracing the metamorphosis of the monument from the heroic. The artist of memory does not look for legitimacy in official taste. his/her aim is to provoke public reaction outside the sphere of popular ceremonialism. As A. and yet is unable to answer the challenges of modern warfare thus becoming more of a threat than an asset to the security of the nation. In fact the narrative depicts the flaws of the Blimp-character through the relationship of Clive Candy and Theo. of obedient yet empty commemoration. Instead of metaphorically stopping time Spud literary speeds it up to give a lesson in modern warfare to the imperial – that is self-centred and arrogant – military elite. everyday practice of memory. to the antiheroic. even deconstructive turn in relation to memory traditions is the feature that may illuminate both Nóra Séllei’s arguments regarding Virginia Woolf’s texts as disobedient narratives and my attempt to explore the resistance exercised by The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. I believe that Colonel Blimp can be regarded as a cinematic example of the disobedient narrative. to block the work of forgetting” (Nora 7 1989. Colonel Blimp cannot be regarded as a full-fledged satire. the German officer who shifts from enemy to rival and later to friend. As a kind of warning against populist cultural memory. It is only through the adoption of a more progressive and less formulaic memory-work can the community enrich itself and renew its inner responsibility to 8 remembering. Powell and Pressburger depict the power of the Blimp figure to be a myth and furthermore suggest that as long as colonels like Clive Candy lead military efforts. Beside the character of the young sergeant. installations and assemblages are best utilized to excavate the ordinary. The film portrays a Blimp-like figure (here called Clive Candy) as the iconic character of monumental memory. which celebrated national ideals and triumphs. whose concept of counter-memory offers a fresh alternative to populist memory-traditions. 19). It is all the more crucial that Young discusses socially purposive aesthetic innovations in the field of public art. Originally a researcher of Holocaustmonuments and memorials. 17) It is in this search for the new meaning of home and source of group cohesion that the idolization of the Empire comes under attack and the character of Spud Wilson comes into focus. L. the meaning of self. The counter-monument – a form of memory against itself. It questions a specific memory tradition without declining the responsibility to address the question of national identity and ontological insecurity. the figure of Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff demonstrates in a rather complex yet powerful manner the dangers of being lost in the past and blind to the present. made ambiguous and turned against itself. to mummify past ideals and idols . yet their art can be fully enjoyed if we realize that the aesthetic layer is supplemented by a social strategy of provoking awareness towards the necessity to overcome disenchanting national myths and fictions. Young. In the case of both disobedience and resistance we have the memory and legacy of the Empire being questioned.nostalgic tone of the empire cycle. It resists the ceremonious mode of address characterising generic formulas: it is neither war film. It is their warm-hearted friendship and the portrayal of the aging Theo finding refuge in Britain (in the Clive 7 These features not only make visible the close correlation between monumentalism and memory but – as both Nora and Young underlines – remove the responsibility of remembering from humans and transfer it on inanimate monuments. Britain has little chance of escaping total defeat. To determine the critical distance between these two paradigms of remembering I would like to turn to the work of James E. Traditional memorials emphasize permanence. (Young 1999. 124 . Modes of addresses with a preference for interactive and transitory artistic practices such as performances. self-aggrandizing figurative icons of the late 19th century. in order to undertake the task of remembering. nor romance but satire. 2) According to the author a whole new generation of memory-artists have emerged all over the world who. as Young calls it – never satisfies an audience aspiring to remember in ceremonial terms. the pompous. In fact. have to first resist and overcome monumental forms of memory. Woolf and Powell are usually praised for their narrative and stylistic innovations. Young describes how memorial processes have changed. This critical. Kennedy writes: “[it] is a film about home and the meaning of home. 8 This term was used first by artists Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz who referred to their Monument against fascism in Harburg (1986-1993) as Gegen-Denkmal – Counter-Monument. often ironic and self-effacing conceptual installations that mark the national ambivalence and uncertainty of late 20th-century postmodernism.

Similar to counter monuments which attack neither the past nor memory but a paradigm of commemoration which in its monumentality and ceremonial qualities belongs to the same tradition it disavows. Far from being pacifist or anti-patriotic. sending an alarming message to the world. Colonel Blimp is a disobedient narrative or a text of counter memory. these films disclose the beauty and cultural richness of the rural Britain. They furthermore declined the corresponding practice of over-estimating the public and underrating the private spheres. The generic cycles associated with Korda depict the transformation of the individual into a public figure. Whereas fighting to victory for Churchill was self-fulfilling. In other words whereas narratives with considerable propaganda value defined individualism as the willingness to sacrifice one’s beliefs and 9 undertake services for the benefit of the group . Besides they also suggest that although Scottish. We can say that Powell and Pressburger view the war from a new perspective and frame of mind.household) that has above all angered the watchdogs of Churchill who after a pre-release screening started shouting traitors at Powell and Pressburger. the accompanying cultural homogenization and the loss of native folklore. why the stories take place in rural Britain. Cornish. belief systems and ways of thinking is a threat the people must fight against. Lacking the claustrophobic and psychologising atmosphere of front line dramas or metropolitan stories. for the makers of Colonel Blimp war was but a dividing line in history. 125 . They refused to follow the unambiguous “we-them” antagonism. insulting and outrageous. traditions. tradition might evolve once again into a myth and the fostering of heritage might become idolization. the 10 precursor of a new paradigm of sociopolitical reality . Although their attempts to ban the film was not successful. Unless this is done. It relies on the insight according to which the progressive aspect of cultural memory will be liberated by seeing beyond the war and revealing the logic that starts wars. this position embraces the idea according to which the reality of war poses many challenges. an achievement which was meant to restore the “order of the Empire”. heroism and sacrifice. Actually there is strong correlation established between Theo and Candy not only at the height of their lives but also in their downfall: we see both as weary old man. Colonel Blimp portrays the rise of individuality in the character’s resigning from the sphere of action and active duty. But what made the character of Theo so threatening and unacceptable? The answer is simple: he is portrayed as a German but not a Nazi. the death of Colonel Blimp allows Clive Candy to be born. the greatest of which is not the enemy on the battlefields but the discriminative stereotypes. a film with elements of fantasy and fairy-tale qualities makes a reference to the war as a historical demarcation line which annuls the usefulness of national mythologies in the formation of identity and celebrates the responsible individual. in fact he appears in the latter part of the film as a victim of the Third Reich. while Powell and Pressburger concentrate on the change from public figure into an individual. The films in question clearly prove that Powell and Pressburger are not against the newly established sense of community and the miraculous strengthening of the national identity experienced during the wartime. victims of their own blind idealism. 10 Even A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Welsh. this telltale incident revealed that the “Colonel Blimps” do not simply live in the imagination of the filmmakers but are alive and kicking in influential political and administrative positions The prime minister’s “love of tradition” taking shape in the attempted banning of the film clearly weakened the nation. It is in this respect that the development of Candy’s character takes a very different road from the one introduced in the thirties. The filmmakers consciously neglected the principles of wartime propaganda cinema. From the contemporary official point of view such comparison is nonsensical. in Canterbury and the surrounding fields in A Canterbury Tale and in the Scottish Inner Hebrides in I Know Where I am Going. for all the wrong reasons I must add. 1944) tell the story of how people shocked by the traumas of war and incapable of action come to regain their full and true personalities while joining community efforts. Powell and Pressburger become the enemies of the Empire and the corresponding mind-set which in its “love of tradition” conserves – less the image than the spirit of – Blimpism. The title of the film literary describes this shift. This symbolic rebirth follows from the insight that the value of a community. The filmmakers very consciously embraced this progressive aspect of remembering and their subsequent films can be thought of kinds of founding narratives for a renewed Britain. which tends to perceive the world in black and white and victimize whole groups based on the actions of their leaders. fictions of indoctrination and artificially promoted antagonisms which dwell in the social unconscious and make wars inevitable. In fact they 9 This Above All (Anatole Litvak 1942) and The Halfway House (Basil Deadren. It may seem ambiguous why these movies altogether resist the depiction of battles. the strength of national identity is not acquired through the all-pervasive efforts to destroy the enemy. a form of oversimplifying populist discourse. English come together to form a monolithic “We” fighting against the Axis powers.

The Archers envision a cinema that is national before being propagandistic. E. Miss Webster’s behaviour acknowledges the view by which any culture can become a melting pot as long as it can validate an understanding without self interest but not without selfreflexivity. 1974. a place as important in the progressive “love of tradition” as Chaucer’s literary achievement. Young. a magnate of the industry and a power thirsty. Princeton University Press. While working for the Empire Marketing Board Grierson produced over hundred films including Song of Ceylon (1934) and Industrial Britain (1933). when the slogans of propaganda lose their actuality and war culture can no longer serve as a kind of melting pot. VII: 1943-1949. At the same time.” Harvard Design Magazine 9. James. London: British Film Institute. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Siegfried. Sir Robert Bellinger. From Caligari to Hitler: The Psychological History of the German Film. egoistic representative of the old order is never seen in the film. The Divided Self. a thirst for romanticism and sentimentalism. a mirror and a medium of the social realities populating the 12 British Isles. A. New York: Harvest Books. It places the past and heritage into focus not to satisfy the requirement for a passing nostalgia. where the heroine. L.” In New German Critique 65 125-133. Young E. by the provocative actions of village magistrate Colpeper who secretly pours glue into the hair of young women making sure they either stay at home after dusk or attend the lectures he holds on local history to the British and American soldiers stationed in town. 1997. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Joan Webster despite all her efforts to reach his elderly but wealthy fiancé comes under the spell of Scottish folklore and finally abandons her prospects for a lucrative marriage. Jan.map up ways in which community cohesion can be maintained after the fighting ends. 1974. James. 1995. 1973. An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. New Haven: Yale University Press. Robert Rhodes. 1993. Assmann. Laing. 12 The sequence in which US Army sergeant John Sweet has a lengthy conversation with a local farmer about cutting and processing wood recalls the down-to earth social realism found in the works of the British documentary movement spearheaded by Grierson. ” Memory and Counter-memory. Kennedy. folkloristic treasures and enchanting festivals. Kracauer. 126 11 .D. If the main hero of A Canterbury Tale is the forerunner of the “heritage industry” than A Canterbury Tale is the first heritage film. he is hidden by the narrative just like he himself hides from the rest of the world. James. London: Penguin Books. R. This responsibility of memory is already proposed by A Canterbury Tale. the invaluable richness of the British countryside. ed. References Arendt. 1990. Winston S. identifying his aristocratic superiority as a form of alienation. Hannah. Churchill: His Complete Speeches Vol. possibly one of the very few true heritage films ever made. one that serves as the very protective arch above identity. A radical activist of cultural memory – beautifully captured by the motif of gluing the past to the present – Colepeper follows on the paths laid down by John Grierson. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meanings. Unlike the Heritage films of the 1980s it envisions a central role for cinema within the national culture. “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity. its material and immaterial wealth. 1999. Actually A Canterbury Tale forms close ties with the mature work of Grierson who after re-evaluating 11 his initial position of popularising cinema as a marketing tool of the Empire came to view it as a means of cross-cultural communication. The new home of cultural memory they envision is not an assimilative memory but a colourful assembly of various class and ethnic identities. New York: Chelsea House.2 1-10. I Know Where I am Going – a film possessing all these elements of heritage – expresses the progressive aspect of cultural memory in a parabolic narrative.

Nora, Pierre. 1989. “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire.” Representations 26. 7-25.

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Ambiguous Afterwards – Haunted Places in the Poetry of Derek Mahon
Péter Dolmányos

“Places as such are dead / or nearly” (Mahon 155) is a provocative claim that would demand much explanation in support if it were regarded as an all-encompassing declaration. Yet the weapon of quotation is a dangerous and tempting one, and Derek Mahon provides a clue which functions as a compulsion to consider both that “nearly” after the line break and the context of this specific statement too – the former cuts the edge of the statement and the latter opens a temporal framework in which the present is to be assessed in the light of the past. The utterance then involves some embryonic portion of hope in that “nearly” yet at the same time emanates a pervasive sense of disillusionment. This duality of response is observable in a number of Mahon’s poems and the focus of the two diverging claims provides a unique and ambiguous world to explore, a world simultaneously populated as well as deserted, a world at once in and out of time. “Displacement, dispossession, disconnection, discontinuity, exile, migrancy: these are central themes and conditions of Mahon’s poetry,” as Elmer Kennedy-Andrews sums up the general critical stance towards the poet (Kennedy-Andrews 21). These imply an apocalyptic approach, a sense of decadence and a generally pessimistic assessment of experience. This, however, is a stance which comes to be treated with a touch of irony which manages to preserve the humane dimension of this poetry, and it also creates a framework of tension in which the poems exist. This tension is neatly outlined by Edna Longley: “His poetry has always been torn between a view of the human condition as ‘terminal’ and a view of the human imagination as sheltering some ‘residual’ spark.” (Kenneally 280) Brendan Kennelly recognises another type of tension in Mahon’s work and labels it “humanism” (Kennelly 127). In his understanding this is romantic and anti-romantic at the same time, since it insists on human responsibility (anti-Romantic) and “lays a primary emphasis on the potential of the solitary self” (romantic) (ibid). All these approaches maintain that Mahon’s poetry is built on a conflict of contrasting claims and it offers dilemmas and ambiguous perspectives rather than neat resolutions. Despite the general association of Mahon’s name with the position of the alienated outsider, he is a poet whose work cannot dispense with the category of place. Hugh Haughton even goes so far as to provide a list of titles of poems in which placenames feature (cf. Corcoran 98-99), and the result is comparable to a compendium of geographical items. From this point of view Mahon fits properly the substantially place-oriented world of contemporary Irish poetry. Mahon’s places, however, embody a different quality than most other places in the work of other poets: he mainly opts for places which signal decay and desolation. His locations often lack human presence and they rarely intimate visions; even when they do, it happens to be a rather bleak one in which civilisation appears a dispensable element, either by its own decision or by historical necessity. These deserted and often rather decrepit reminders of former human habitation suggest the general transitoriness of the human world, often in a strong Beckettian manner, and they simultaneously evoke the power of nature to reclaim what has been carved out from her by humans. At the same time these very locations also point to the former human significance of the chosen places and their subsequent abandonment, thus the locations inhabit a space which is both natural and human yet at the same time it is neither really natural nor human. The fact that several of Mahon’s chosen places share the motif of having been abandoned points to the importance of the temporal dimension in the assessment of these places. Though the chosen locations are depicted in their present state, a temporal context is always implied and the process of change is incorporated in the account. Places are thus not simply regarded as places but are functions of time – these locations are places in time, in a specific moment of history, which makes history an integral element in the assessment of experience. The poems thus insist on the inseparability of place and time and the inescapable confines of human existence in relation to these dimensions. This inevitable temporality of existence underpins the significance of the motif of change, or in the preferred critical term, of metamorphosis (cf. Hughes in Kennedy-Andrews 106-109). The principal agent of metamorphosis is nature in most cases. The observation that nature repossesses the formerly human locations provides an important commentary on the human condition too. This involvement of nature as the representative of the permanence of change in the temporal world serves as a reminder that the human being only possesses the faculties to contemplate this but has no power to alter the basic pattern. This may not seem much yet in the final analysis is perhaps not a small gift either since a scene requires an observer in order to acquire significance and meaning, which supports the (romantic) claims on the power of the imagination in constituting the reality it
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observes. Mahon’s speaker is aware of this and his accounts are accordingly haunted by various dilemmas of existence, which renders them a part of the metamorphosis they depict as they comment on the changing human significance of the contemplated locations. The poem “Rathlin” gives an account of a visit to the eponymous small island off the north coast of the North and comes to a profound dilemma as its conclusion. The heavy historical heritage of the island (it was the last refuge of a clan in conflict with the British), including massacres of women and children as a power demonstration by the British, forms a kind of frame for the poem – “the last scream”, “an unnatural silence” and “the unspeakable violence” all recall the tragic past of the island which in turn is contrasted with its peaceful present of “a natural silence” (Mahon 107). The island now functions as a nature conservation area, a home to hosts of seabirds, and its human population is generally negligible – the poem renders it even less significant as human presence is only mentioned through the lighthouse and the comfortable matrix of elsewhere represented partly by the visit and partly by a reference to the contemporary conflict of the mainland in which “Bombs doze in the housing estates / But here they are through with history.” (Mahon 107) Nature has reclaimed the island, it has become a “sanctuary” (Mahon 107) with its own “dream-time” (Mahon 107) which owes nothing to the external world, except for the human acknowledgment of its status as a piece of protected nature. The details of one of the past massacres provide a sharp contrast with the “singular peace” (Mahon 107) of the present when the brief visit comes to an end. The speaker leaves the place in a state of uncertainty “Whether the future lies before us or behind.” (Mahon 107) The pronoun is general enough to liberate its referent, and the question is one that similarly allows for a range of possible interpretations, especially in the light of the explicit reference to the brooding conflict of the North, with the implication of the past by the future, that journeys involve both origins and destinations, that across from the future lies the past, depending only on the direction of the movement. Given the historical significance of the location, temporal and spatial may also be collapsed into each other: what is left behind is at the same time the before of the temporal dimension. This could hint at some form of optimism in relation to the present conflict of the North, yet at the same time it may also lose its entire significance: as the island visit implies, nature is the beginning as well as the end – then the future is before as well as behind, and the only permanence is that of nature. Even the status of the island as a nature conservation area can be understood as the embodiment of the dilemma: the supremacy of nature is officially acknowledged in the context of the island, but there is an insistence on the fact that it is a human decision to do so. “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford” preserves historical elements of a different kind. The poem lends significance to a place rarely considered worth even thinking about, with ‘characters’ not less unusual for attention than the place itself, as the shed is a home for a colony of mushrooms. The shed acquires a rather unusual status as it is regarded a special place where “a thought might grow” (Mahon 89), a phenomenon not too frequent in Mahon’s vision of the contemporary world. The somewhat vague reference to a location in the Republic of Ireland claims kin with the exotic world of “Peruvian mines, worked out and abandoned” and “Indian compounds” (Mahon 89), they are connected by the lack of practical significance and, in turn, by their discovery as potentially fertile imaginative environments, in spite of or perhaps exactly because of this lack of immediate economic or social significance. The more exact details of the shed are grounded in history: the “burnt-out hotel” and the “civil war days” (Mahon 89) provide the explanation, in several senses, for the harsh conditions of the mushrooms crammed together in that claustrophobic environment. The conditions for the ‘life’ of the mushrooms are evoked through a rich use of vivid detail, which creates an emphatic picture of deprivation. The mushrooms eventually become analogies to the “lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii” (Mahon 90), broadening the context of the poem to embrace and encompass human suffering caused by excessive violence. The conditions are harsh and depressing, yet endurance yields some sort of deliverance – the door of the shed is finally opened and the mushrooms are flooded with light. Though there may be little consolation in the context of the individual, the notion of continuity persists, and the poem is closed by a wish, which may even carry an implicit sense of hope that the future will be something better, or at least different from what has been endured so far. In a characteristically Mahonian way more questions are raised in the poem than come to be answered. The rather peculiar idea that such abandoned and forgotten places may be the home of thoughts is a sceptical comment on the contemporary world yet it does not provide an unquestionably satisfactory answer to why it is so. It is tempting to see the opening of the poem as an instance of proper irony since the depicted locations are the places where new thoughts are the least likely to appear, at least according to usual expectations. Still, the exotic world of abandoned mining settlements in South America is credited with the possibility of discovery and the likewise exotic world of the shed in a rather vaguely circumscribed location in Ireland manages to offer a fresh perspective. The haunting
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the wish closing the poem does not indicate any clear-cut pattern of resolution – Mahon suggests the dilemma but does not go any further in assessing it. Cork’ is often regarded as a companion piece to the previous one. of imaginatively recreating the picture of the garage as a location which is at once a home for the people working there. The overtly melancholic tone of the poem acknowledges the tragedy of suffering: there is no compensation for what has been lost or denied. The nature of the compensation is likewise dubious as the opening of the door of the shed offers light for the mushrooms. a garage abandoned and left to slow decay. (Mahon 131) This is an act of immortalising humanity. bridging the gap between Noah and the 20th century achievements of technology. the seemingly generous final moment of the poem captures only the moment of the fulfilment of this wish: what the mushrooms used to little light will do when faced with a flood of light is another of those implications which remain unresolved at the end of the poem. This process is ironically depicted through the disintegration of the man-made items of the garage but Mahon does not stop there: he introduces the supernatural as well to complement the image by a grotesque transformation: A god who spent the night here once rewarded Natural courtesy with eternal life – Changing to petrol pumps. The story of the mushrooms presents the dilemma of the lived life versus the unlived ones in a potent way. The hint at the Irish tradition of emigration is at once a paradoxical moment as it restores the human (and personal) significance of the place: “Somebody somewhere thinks of this as home” (Mahon 130). that they be spared For ever there. at least for a faction of the community. a traveller’s view of a lost past” (ibid). and the place is imaginatively reconstructed in its heyday as one both ancient and modern. support the initial claim of the speaker as his evocation of life in repression indeed cuts deeper than any usual perspective would do so – the objective correlative throws light on aspects that would otherwise be quickly overlooked. Freedom is suddenly offered to the deprived yet there is no further indication as to the practical consequences of this. especially by the modern sensibility trained on and conditioned by media representations of violence. creating a world which is thus not purely natural but not human any longer. more exotic locations and times. This sardonic vision gives way to a general conclusion of the poem which retains a more emphatic perspective: “We might be anywhere but are in one place only” (Mahon 131). political or other considerations is not clarified – and in fact it is virtually unimportant from the point of view of the speaker of the poem. of generations of mushrooms. The garage may be deserted but it retains its human significance and Mahon is (uncharacteristically) generous in contemplating the scene with benevolent nostalgia. The poem is finished in a fitting way yet the conclusion retains the tension that keeps the whole poem going rather than releasing it. an old man and his wife. as if they pointed beyond the generally transitory nature of the rest of the site. indicating the fact that the place is deserted now but once it boasted of life. What offers more for him is the potential of the location to launch the project of envisioning the past. The latter idea is more specifically concerned with the ‘sense of place’ whereas the former 130 .details of the life of mushrooms. As Hugh Haughton suggests. and nature has reclaimed what was once carved out of her. At first glance the building is as hollow and fake as a “frontier storefront in an old western” (Mahon 130) but on closer scrutiny the “cracked panes reveal a dark / Interior echoing with the cries of children” (Mahon 130). is deserted now. prompts the old question of priorities as well: in the end the door of the shed is opened and the mushrooms (or one generation of them) are ‘liberated’ – endurance is rewarded. however. Though in the description of their repressed state this seems to be the only thing they yearn for. a grotesque rewriting of artistic endeavour in a profoundly anticlimactic way. however. which in turn becomes a memorial to the industrial world of the twentieth century. The poem ‘A Garage in Co. Though this hints at the generally acclaimed ideas of roads taken and not taken. The location is again a deserted country place. thus a pattern larger than the individual receives some form of compensation. How this relates to the individual is not addressed within the confines of the poem. The place is evoked in the matrix of other. Mahon seems to lay down his preference in favour of the taken ones. either. Whether the place has been abandoned because of economic. insisting on the uniqueness of particular experience and thus regarding a place in the context of its own significance rather than that of its external features. The place. and it is declared a “roadside oasis” with a “mound / Of never-used cement” (Mahon 130). This. the poem may be considered “a poem not about place but our place in the world” (Corcoran 111) as well as a “commentary on Irish emigration. The divine intervention turning the garage into a lasting element of the landscape is a bizarre moment but it suggests a drive contrary to the usual process: nature reclaims the spot yet the petrol pumps are seen as permanent parts of the scene. or more accurately.

Elegies. which indicates more profound dilemmas of existence. 131 . and the presentation of their conditions evokes the question of life as opposed to mere existence. and though it is disused. Essays on the Contemporary Poetry of Northern Ireland.(ed) The Chosen Ground. The garage is still recognisable but it is already changing. There are poems. Hugh. civil war or emigration all produce abandoned places but these in turn become haunted ones as the historical dimension does not let the past disappear. References Mahon. which seem to cluster as they suggest similar concerns. The shed is still a recognisable shed.opens a more potent range of references for the poem. In “Rathlin” the metamorphosis is in an advanced stage as the tiny island is a home for birds rather than for men. that of the moment of the contemplation of the chosen scenes. destabilising the temporal dimension to such an extent that the relation of the future to the present comes to be questioned. with its carefully placed “but” is both a lament and a consolation. Mahon only acknowledges this but does not assess its basis – whether choice may be understood as a curse or a blessing remains a question unresolved at the end of that final stanza. Massacre. by their very nature are paradoxical and therefore ambiguous since “memories falsify as they preserve” (Johnston 184). Still. Mahon’s poetic oeuvre involves a significant number of poems to feature placenames in their titles. Derek. yet the fact of choice and its exclusiveness remains an essential feature of life. With this metamorphosis in that advanced stage the direction of change may indeed appear uncertain. The location of “A Garage in Co. This phenomenon works in the other direction as well – any place may forge its own significance regardless of its actual situation. These locations have their own historical heritage and in one way or other comment on the omnipresence of metamorphosis.” In: Corcoran. The end of the poem acknowledges this dimension. even when there is a definite temporal point of reference. Collected Poems. It is the most intact and therefore the most provocative of the three locations and its more overtly general conclusion shifts the emphasis from external circumstance to choice. however. with no clear-cut priority implied in its phrasing. The active interaction of conflicting forces. insisting on the motif of metamorphosis as a relevant one in relation to the island. with the human constructs slowly crumbling and the natural world making a slow but inevitable return to the spot. In “A Disused Shed in Co. 1992. Wexford” the location is transformed as the title already suggests yet the scene preserves many if its basic features. however. Neil. and these poems register a rather wide range of geographical reference. The historical trauma is a thing of the past. the omnipresence of metamorphosis and the subsequent change of the human significance of the given location all work together to foster a basically elegiac mood for assessing the chosen places. “’Even now there are places where a thought might grow’: Place and Displacement in the Poetry of Derek Mahon. it has not entirely lost its function as some form of shelter – it has metamorphosed into a ‘home’ for mushrooms. the speaker chooses to frame the poem by references to its human past rather than viewing it in the context of an excursion to a piece of unspoilt nature. it is only preserved in the memory of the contemplating intelligence and the actual location does not possess any memorial to it. The human significance of the place is gone. yet the place develops an imaginative appeal as a result of its metamorphosis. Each place may boast of its “intrinsic nature” (Mahon 131) and may have its own significance without any order of priorities or prestige. Cork” is probably the least transformed as it still boasts of its major landmarks yet the place has been abandoned and it has lost its function as a result. thus the metamorphosis remains a process rather than a finished project. The three poems capture the metamorphosis in its different phases in the chosen locations. 1999. The observing imagination keeps the human dimension of the locations afloat. The colony of mushrooms eventually becomes analogous to suffering human beings. Mahon’s closures are accordingly both haunting and haunted – “We might be anywhere but are in one place only” (Mahon 131). Bridgend: Seren Books. and though the language becomes overtly didactic and generalising. Haughton. the dilemma is properly arrested. The tension of ‘terminal’ and ‘residual’ is thus actively present and marks the playground of the poems. Loughcrew: Gallery.

Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Limited. In: Kennedy-Andrews. (ed. Elmer (ed. Kennedy-Andrews. Newcastle: Bloodaxe. Longley. Irish Poetry After Joyce. “’Weird / Haecceity’: Place in Derek Mahon’s Poetry. Elmer (ed. 1995. Selected Prose.) Poetry in Contemporary Irish Literature. Journey into Joy.) 2002. Johnston.Hughes.) Syracuse: Syracuse UP. M. (2nd ed. Eamonn. Kennelly. Edna. 2002. Dillon. 1994. 132 . B.) The Poetry of Derek Mahon Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Limited.” In: Kenneally. 1997. “Derek Mahon: Extreme Religion of Art. The Poetry of Derek Mahon Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Limited.

which is related to the subjective perception of the virtual reality. The first type can be described as the essence of a human being. 2004) and the study of this issue has “attained a remarkable centrality within the human and social sciences” (du Gay et al. The second theoretical axis used in the present article is that of blogs – which emphasise the presentation of self (Goffman 1959) and the performative aspects of the writing culture. more precisely. Theoretical Background Our analysis employs as its first theoretical axis the approaches to the study of “social identity”. there are three main types of identity that can be discerned in a person: transportable. that which a person carries. Finally. In all. and sometimes organizational or institutional identity. it starts from the theories that explore the relationship between an individual’s personal identity and his group identity. Introduction Ambiguity is a central characteristic of the online communication environment. In any interaction – while all facets of an individual’s social identity are potentially relevant resources – individuals tend to present or focus on particular aspects of their social identity. the situated outcome of a rhetorical and interpretive process in which interactants make situationally motivated selections from socially constituted repertoires of identification and affiliation resources and craft these semiotic resources into identity claims for presentation to others”. and one’s personal values or moral beliefs (Calvert. 2002). 2003). The second type is the identity that emerges depending on a specific situation and that changes in different contexts. thus. Identity is often characterized in terms of one’s interpersonal characteristics. in particular the blurring distinctions between producers and consumers of knowledge. According to Zimmerman (1998). Miller (1995) questions the utilization of Goffman’s theory in 133 . Ambiguity. The field of Computer Mediated Communication has developed precisely around these issues. New technologies have come to have a significant impact on our lifestyles. The present article aims to explain Romanian sociologists’ use of blogs – as forms of Computer Mediated Communication – for the purpose of reconstructing their personal and professional identities. is inherent in computer-mediated communication. 2000) in recent years. and the estimation of the situation’s reality. which refers to the lack of visible social cues and the reliance on an assumptive social environment. authority. 2. and the manifestations of this relationship in everyday talk (Hogg and Abrams. 1988. ethnicity. of what is individually experienced in electronic environments. and between public and private. these factors assign a major role to an individual’s cognitive processes.Veils or Mirrors? The Use of Blogs as Means of Shaping Romanian Sociologists’ Personal and Professional Identities Valentina Marinescu 1. there is discourse identity. professional status. individual identity is conceived as a unique complex of interacting aspects of different group and personal identities (Holmes and Meyerhoff. emphasizing gender. which is constructed locally in every single stretch of talk or text that a person produces. Computer Mediated Communication can be defined most simply as communication that takes place between human beings via the instrumentality of computers (Herring 1996). referred to by Mantovani as “the ubiquity of mediation” (2002). “Identity” is an extremely complex construct (De Fina. such as self-definition or personality traits. Holmes and Meyerhoff. the roles one assumes and the relationships one enters in various interactions. since so much personal information becomes publicly available online. 2003). or “transports” along with him/her and that is present in any context. involving the fabrication of any appearance at will. Mantovani (2002) referred to three aspects that contributed to the ambiguous nature of cyberspace: the user’s self-presentation. Of great significance for the social sciences are in particular the effects of new technologies on human interaction and communication. In general. the social context. Bauman (2000: 1) describes this final type of identity construction as follows: “…in this perspective identity is an emergent construction. power. resulting in dynamic personal processes that stem from the very subjective perception of the nature of the situation. by which he stresses the overwhelming and critical human experience in cyberspace over mere technology.. situational and discourse identity.

By operating their agent. it gives people access to all that could possibly be seen about them.understanding CMC (Computer-Mediated-Communication). 2005). While this may seem deceptive – since people may mislead others in terms of how they represent themselves to others online – Boyd (2001) points out that it is not. Blog posts are primarily textual. 2004. Therefore. 2002). “the blog that both discusses the content of research. Throughout his/her lifetime. The research question addressed in this article is. the ideas themselves. Halavais. of a specific race or age. so that all parties involved know how to interpret the situation. such as work roles. According to this schema. there are many other dimensions that individuals have little control over. etc. 2004. such as their biological sex. values. all important in identity construction. blogging can be seen as a kind of performative assemblage involving multiple subjects and objects: multiple researchers. but often as a personal journal or ongoing commentary about oneself (Herring et al. on an “other”. as the players are exploring their identity through their virtual characters. The viewer may not have arrived to the page through the expected channels. this formation of the ego is fundamentally dependent on external objects. they are able to perceive themselves. thin or fat. first and foremost as a way of doing social and cultural research that combines both online and offline activities. and other physical features. 2002). Lacan (1901) discusses the formation of I. From his perspective. In other words. and social relationships. multiple audiences and multiple publics. It also helps them understand how their different facets of self operate online and how they can adjust them. and may be interpreting the information in a manner contradictory to the producers’ intentions. and projecting multiple selves. reflected in the mirror produces the mental representation of an “I” for them. A blog is considered to be a new kind of asynchronous CMC and it is used in a variety of ways. Jill Walker (2006) identifies three kinds of academic blogs: blogs used for political debate by public intellectuals. and redefine identities. Therefore. but many include photographs and other types of multimedia content. empirical studies show users of CMC utilizing the Internet to construct. The context of various Internet sites acts as a structure within which these negotiations. This exploration can be a search for a “unitary” construct about the self or it may be aimed at building a “social” construct with multiple selves. as such: How do Romanian sociologists make use of blogs in the reconstruction of their professional identities? Are their blogs “mirrors” or not? 134 . it is in the mirror stage in development that infants first get a notion of themselves as unique individuals. they can create worlds where people can have meaningful new experiences. However. Alternately. as such. They can provide spaces for consequence-free experimentation and facilitate identity development. He argues that in face-to-face interactions we are generally aware of the context of the interaction. constructions. this mirror reflection provides a source of feedback that allows people to adjust their presentation in order to convey what they want to project. and that also discusses the process and experience of researching”. and re-constructions take place (Gatson and Zweerink. age. making the exploration of identity more flexible (Calvert. they lack the body with the help of which to project themselves. Blog writing is similar in this respect: the player develops his/her character/avatar and constructs his/her identity through the reflective connectivity that his/her identification has with the avatar’s narration on the blog. Blogging emerges. this perception of self extends and develops. It can help individuals explore their identities and experiment dimensions of their selves that they are not always comfortable expressing in real life (Gee. positions. these areas can be controlled. and presentations. 1974) the interaction. race. reading someone’s blog carries the risk of taking the interaction out of context. – operates in fact as an externalized Lacanian “mirror image” of the player. The most interesting and intriguing metaphor associated with blogs is that of a “mirror”. Huffaker. In The Mirror Stage. in fact. For Lacan. as the so-called “individual” matures and enters into social relations. A mirror provides an image in which we can see ourselves and postulate what others see. to some extent those images reflect their selves. negotiate. In addition to fulfilling the role of digital mirrors to project images and identities. or in what Walker (2006: 5) refers to as a hybrid genre. 2004). as they wish others to see them. The psychosocial moratorium is a consequence-free period of experimentation that facilitates the development of identity. However. and desires into a digital representation that serves as their online agent. The mirror is an interesting metaphor for consideration. In everyday life. the virtual character and avatar the player chooses – whether female or male. In virtual environments. which is the same as the Ideal-I. We have information which allows us to “frame” (Goffman. He proposes that infants pass through a stage in which the external image of their body. In the virtual world. purse lip square jaw would be located between a public intellectual blog and a research blog. there are areas of identity that an individual can control. In the physical world. they project their ideas. ideological values. Social interactionists such as Turkle (1995) suggest that people construct multiple selves in virtual environments. virtual environments can provide a space called a psychosocial moratorium that allows people to take risks. research blogs (including student blogs) and pseudonymous blogs about academic life.. Just as anthropological fieldnotes create culture as well as they describe it. Such places offer possibilities for constructing and reconstructing identities.

the sphere of sociology. Thus. Ideally. This is the moment when the notion of ‘intellectual’ is brought to life again. 4. It is a professed goal that academic sociologist will accept the responsibility to teach. and interpretation do not exist independently of each other. with an emphasis on the sociologists’ identity in the academic world: Adrian Gavrilescu (2009) and Gheorghe Onuţ (2008). virtual ethnography is the written product of the ethnographic research conducted in a virtual space . Barnes argues that labels for groups of people tend to be imposed. The Analysis of the Results In our analysis of online personal identity construction modes used by Romanian sociologists. the postCommunist era means not only the reconfiguration of the scientific framework. 2003). 1992). it can provide disabled people with a sense of individual and collective identity. The identification of the key-elements used in the formal definition of the “profession”. in particular with the university and research activities. Language usage is also related to how language is processed through a communications medium. overlaps with the didactic activity. Society. We used discourse analysis and virtual ethnography as main methods of analysis. a topic that will be addressed in detail in the following chapters. the unitary self and the distinction between self and society”. Following Hine (2000: 7) we consider that virtual ethnography is appropriate for the methodological framework of the present article due to the fact that: “the new communication technologies are part of the process where doubt is cast on authenticity. 1997). In its most basic sense. Following Fairclough (2001) who linked language use with power and ideology. meaning is constructed through all three (Hall. and negotiation of social relations of power. when appropriate terminology is used. language. a point made by both Sweeney (2003) and Sancho (2003). At the same time. the immediate clients of sociologists. seeing language as both a social artefact and a social process (Fairclough. of course.one divorced from usual conventions of geography. taken as a profession. while reminding nondisabled people of society’s continuing oppression of people with disabilities (Barnes. The sample analyzed in this case consists of seven blogs of Romanian sociologists. 1993). as it results from the posts and discussions Romanian sociologists published on their personal blogs. 2000: 4): “An ethnography of the Internet can look in detail at the ways in which technology is experienced in use”. maintenance. Here we will focus our analysis on two books about Romanian intellectuals after 1989. and so is the necessity of transferring a symbolic professional capital to public life – all for achieving the common good. The Data Set. stereotypical beliefs about disabled people are encoded in our culture through language as well as images. Since one set of data included Romanian sociologists’ blogs. situation encountered in Romania after the fall of the Communist regime. representation and reality. as it resulted from public debates within the sociologists’ community. representation and the self. It is so because contained within language are supposed commonsense assumptions and ideologies relating to the dominant groups in society (Fairclough. Blogs in particular problematise and make explicit many of these questions of authenticity. 2001). According to this definition. Virtual Ethnography. 2001). teaching is thought of not only as a professional responsibility per se but as an essential activity for improving one’s research”. B. the Variables and the Research Hypothesis The research methodology of this article is based on a mixed analysis of two basic sets of empirical data: A. Christine Hine (2000) points out the value of ethnography in the study of technology (Hine. Janowitz’ definition of the sociologists’ activity (1972: 105): “As an academic profession. As A. Gavrilescu wrote in his analysis of the field of sociology (2006: 188).3. In contrast. The analysis of sociologists’ self-definition. but nevertheless a space or place of communication or interaction. discourse analysis showed that the way in which audiences take information from language may subvert the author’s intended meaning of a text. we considered as starting point M. The decision to concentrate on discourse analysis in this study results from the impossibility to do more than simply touch on the role of the audience in the construction of meaning from texts posted on blogs. corporeality and embodiment. although the audience for teaching may variously defined to include other professional groups or extra-mural assemblies. These assumptions are also reproduced through the communications media (Barnes. students are. but also the beginning of a great ascent in the public sphere. not chosen (Barnes. In her book. 135 . we used virtual ethnography as the second method of research. we consider that language plays a significant role in the production.

the identity’s external reference point is the link to ‘peers’ (people who also work as sociologists) and the norms and constraints deriving from this profession. But they are not the ones who offer the identity of the social body of sociologists. At the same time. and they consider them an informal space where they can express themselves more colloquially than usually. While face to face interactions allow us to selectively reveal pieces of information to certain persons. 2002: 249): “[. and the members of the public unseen while writing the post – encourages revelations and. – a special group called “The Sociologists” – displaying the Internet links to the blogs of peers and friends working as sociologists. hoping that they might reach the checking of their identity (Burke. Professional sociologists make up most of their number. we will consider Goffman’s (1959) approach to the actors’ means of self-introduction by using “settings and props”. According to the rich corpus of literature on this topic (namely Lessig. These two means reveal who the actor really is – and Goffman (1959) emphasizes the difference between the open presentation (”given”) of identity and the (“given off”). Brevity. 2003). By convention. Who want to make sure that their universities will keep benefiting from huge numbers of students. as we are going to see) through the means of blogs may be identified in the ‘tensions’ – evident in these blogs – between the public and the private sphere. and Personality”. Gavrilescu. Gh. Bloggers should always seek to create a balance – because on the one hand. of the desired number of readers and of the desired impact of the posts they publish. 1999. the way it is shown through his blog. and they have to speak on behalf of their professional peers. social and power crisis characterising Romania. more-limited control expressions of identity – in order to determine the real identity of the actor. feeling uncertain and embarrassed. They are just voiceless. while others see the blog as part of the public space. blog authors are aware of the place their blogs hold in the public sphere. 2008: 226)1. seraglio sociologists and professional ones. The mediation of communication via blogs – with the screen standing in front of the audience.] the blog concept is about three things: Frequency. at the same time it provides privacy. In the second situation. most of the times they find themselves in self-conflicting situations. Park. Thus. such as “interested in sociology/anthropology”. 2006: 188). the image is contradicted by a series of analyses. 2003)... “polls” and so forth). despite admitting they should pay attention to the language used and the topics they approach in their posts. figure that is blatantly big in comparison with the consumption statistics. the seven blogs we analysed contain a blogroll (a “whom I talk to on a daily basis” list) in order to emphasise the important members of the audience. in a study focused on identifying the definitory elements of sociology in nowadays’ Romania. Most bloggers’ attitude towards their audience is marked by tension. Nevertheless. 1999. due to its offering a precise radiography of the Romanian society (A. Bloggers take into consideration the importance they assign to their readers. The voice speaking on behalf of sociologists belongs to the seraglio sociologists. Park. (Williams. but not to others. while on the other hand they entertain their audience. if not for this very purpose. it is a public space created with certain expectations about the prospective audience. created taking into account that others might read it. Hence. they ‘captivate’ it. at least. some blog owners consider blogging an activity similar to keeping a personal diary. Thus. while on the other. 2004). an audience. Furthermore. they remain themselves (or. On the one hand.The general perception regarding sociology referred to this profession as a ‘rescuer’ meant to offer solutions to the economic. mentions his professional identification – “sociologist” (varying by adding other labels. On the one hand. the sociologist’s identity is publicly presented via the political field. but they do so using an intimate tone. Blogs address a certain category of individuals. a blog is a private/personal space. we are dealing with two main reference fields for the construction of the sociologists’ identity at the personal level: ‘the public sphere’ and ‘the professional field’. although different blogs may emphasize each of these aspects differently. . every subject who fills in the “About me” box of the blog. most blogs do not allow this limitation of expression since blogs themselves impose these limits protecting the user’s privacy (Lessig. In the relationship with the outside world – more specifically with the public sphere and mass media – this monolithic image seems to be dominated by the profession. society as a whole and mass-media. Onuţ (2008) introduces a basic internal distinction between “academic sociologists” (he used to call them “seraglio sociologists”) and “apprentice sociologists” (Onuţ. The key element in the construction of a personal identity (and also a professional one. in most of the cases we can notice that the blogroll includes a special category. yet at the same time supported by and protected from the thoughts and/or actions of their blogs ‘visitors (virtual or future visitors). they put forward a version of themselves) and they protect their privacy. quoted in Mortensen and Walker. “We may encounter both categories. They want to be the ones who wage the war of 136 1 . Thus. In the first case. while in the second situation. read only by its author. So the followers of the blog see a relatively unified picture of the blogger’ personal identity. In order to understand the privacy management strategies chosen by Romanian sociologists who blog. actors rely on the symbols they share with others.

We did not change their identity of the other people joining the discussion because we considered that they are part of the virtual cult readers of the blog. a stage that western cultures (“advanced democracies” – as others call them in their wooden language) went through during the ’70s– when – in the over promising context of the ’40s-’60s – they realized that sociology talks a lot. more times than I’ve seen Radu complaining .. more and more difficult to support financially :D because “measuring” diversifies in such an alert way. gathering information about the local market and update with world tendencies . the dialogue that emerges between the two sociologists (B1 and B3) reveals the inherent ambiguity surrounding the sociologists’ position in the public sphere. a label attached to sociology.. they do not turn it into their profession. but still they keep their interest into social logos or they want to keep it :D and they turn it into an advantage in exercising other professions. in a post written by a sociologist the “divide” between the academic education “ideal” and the labour market’s reality is referred to by the word “mirage”. La reproduction.. and its distinguishing feature . and despite the fact that this profession is so susceptible to attacks and so blurry. That’s why I’d rather head towards valid data and hypotheses. Romania has not reached yet that stage of awareness of and immunity to the spell of sociology. But that’s just my opinion. And that’s fuzzy like hell. [... where they can be assessed and they may also be of use to society.. I do not think it is their fault..This identity distinction is evidenced also by the themes chosen for the blog posts. devoid of any theory. or at least of mentions of the capacities one needs for it. Table 1– “The mirage” of sociology2 Post B33 Today one of my colleagues defended her dissertation in sociology… so now five of us hold a “degree” in sociology.. professionalization. we’ll end up left only with the rigour of measurement. and. since sociologists’’ magazines are seraglio magazines. and we’re all working for a company that despite having established a target to find the common points between the advertisers’ messages and the targeted audience… is still just a company offering services such as implementation. For deontological considerations we used abreviations in order to refer to the owners of the blogs undergoing our survey. without indicating their identity or their websites. sociology remains one of the few faculties that add value to a CV and it tends to be mentioned during conversations. But that takes “trust” in the expertise itself. the dilution I am talking about. that it makes it increasingly difficult to get a grip on it..] Assuming that they might have something to say. they have no connection whatsoever with the “theory” taught in school). If they do not read it. PS: this post is just a “fizzled out interpretation” by means of “redefining the situation”. Thus.. voila and see”. I wonder how many professional sociologists read this magazine. have little in common with sociology (anyway.. 3 2 137 . hence hinting at the confusing character the profession of sociologist. For instance. Despite the absence – in many cases – of definitions of this profession. we notice the use of the syntagma “port-manteau profession”. susceptible to attacks. The titles used for each table represent the titles of the post taken as it is. but does less. a technique that I am not generally very keen on using (since it’s way too “psychological” :D) Comments B1 – It’s still a port-manteau profession. In addition to emphasizing “technical” elements. I want useful words. including the measurement/prediction process is going to have enough success on the market? ‘Cause I’ve heard that chorus saying “I don’t want to see figures.. I do not value much “the essayist trend” either.. I call it a ‘mirage’ because I get the feeling that despite the fact that there are more and more people willing to study this field. but “the rigour of measurement” is nothing more than a nice syntagma. :D B3 – Do you reckon that social engineering. professional sociologists do not have the chance to take the floor.. You see.. I don’t think it helps. And I am referring to that kind of places where some humourless people utter humourless things to other humourless people..being “fuzzy like hell”. buying..

do not exist! People Pleasure’s all mine.” 4 138 . The sociologist resists. gets a head butt and a flower on the polls. You’re allowed to say anything These assessments are extracted from the research presented by Gh. or should I put on my helmet so that I do not get a bruise cognac meanwhile) in in the middle of my forehead?:) :rofl: :p :p :p PS: No.-boss. he can always turn into a new person. Based on a research project focused on with this profession. shaved head come to embarrass our cognac (yes. events. Best wishes! :) turmoil created by this B1 – As one of my good friends – the one who shares the skull post about the results with me – used to say: whoever likes it. glass of VSOP some trimmed moustache. In the blogs included in this analysis. You do not really know what to expect of him. if this might get me a unknown persons. He seems not to have reached the last lap. I really do like your post. when you rereading now. though he faces the toughest trials. these sociologists! So savage and aggressive! In this our health! I raise this world of tolerance and Scandinavian common sense minimalism. gets a glass of cognac of the pre-electoral from me. I’ve Latin ancestry! What did you say you wanted to say? Something started drinking positive. cars or dishes would you associate with sociologists. Who doesn’t like it. there are three fields of identity. Man. correct way. animals. Should he not have everything he needs. which one best personify this profession?” In this case the author identifies the following characteristics of Romanian sociologists’ self-perception (Onuţ. The sampling involved approximately 350 subjects. You. In the case of communicational interactions via blogs. he always offers unpredictable answers. Onuţ in his book. The sociologist is the hero facing trials. nor does he lament. unique. I am surveys. not even after shaking off or after you stop feeding him.Thus. head butt? :( God. He clings to you (if you did not reach to him) and you cannot get rid of him. about the mihnea. The principle of adjustment is also generally valid. and not to have received his award yet.. able to surmount conflicting situations and obstacles4.Nope. how would I dare leave a comment. difficulties he face and then overcomes. he does not die. Don’t be shy! Be my guest. one said that you are on the field? month after the B1 . we come to witness the emergence of the first type of “screening” of the personal identity of Romanian sociologists – that offered by the juxtaposition between the professional ideal (internalized in a set of normative rules and values associated to the profession of sociologist) and the real demands of society from sociologists. for Anonymous – I’m back. What side would you like me to hit: the left or go mad when drinking the right zygomatic bone ? Or the centre. the blogger’s need to portray reality in a veridical. Nevertheless.. 2008: 216): “The common point between all epithets and specific actions generally listed by sociologists is the idea involving obstacles. but tell inversions between me. who had to answer the question: “Which plants. so i can hit your teeth? or when voting. God that B1 – But. He is endowed with various accessories who make him come clean out of every trial he has to face. I was honour of past kidding. He is not picky. The elements he is made of represent another common aspect. please! But. and each one of them can be activated in various situations: the real identity (real qualities and attributes belonging to an individual). I can’t do such a thing. Bloggers attempt to reconcile these aspects by creating on their blogs profiles and identities which illustrate an ideal self – as opposed to the real one – in fact an ideal identity. The sociologist is an amalgam.. the ought identity (referring to the qualities an individual desires to have). successful and desirable image of themselves – a phenomenon that falls into “the management of impression” model developed by Goffman (1956). enters into contradiction with their “natural” tendency to project an attractive. he lets others think that he is satisfied with almost anything. I read your post (obviously!). the ideal identity (the qualities an individual would have ideally) and the possible identity – the one the individual ought to have. According to Higgins (1987). the sociologists’ self-perception is a relatively positive one. He is not easy to understand at all. one may conclude that Romanian sociologists define themselves as strong. really. Oh. the ones you were talking about the other day. Table 2 – And sad we are post coitum Post Comments B1 Nostalgic and Anonymous – Did you start getting the results of the latest amused. adaptable and unpredictable persons. :) :rofl: :wink: two-cent people. Not yet. a weird mixture of elements that make him strange.. […] Everything revolves around challenges. please. He just adapts. he is rather complex and surprising. Cause this is how sociology behaves on the geared towards these forums. All the passion back of his head. this rather positive self-perception is expressed through posts in which they manifest their so-called “ideal identity”. To lol. rofl.

D Anonymous – you’re sad. and her for Brecht ("Kleines Organon für das Theater"). oh dear! You mistook me for Hemingway. :p Anonymous – you mixed us up again.. I target only the liver. Identity is perceived by the author of the blog himself as continuous and dynamic. This post shows that the reflexive representations of identity are illustrated not only in the case of the author of the blog. I’ll let you imagine that you’re hitting me. I think I am sad too.. Yeah. I spat it and I chose the path of multiple voices! Aaaaaaargh! Let me out! Let me out. untouched by affiliations to shareholders.. of lost youth and of sudden irritations."In order to produce A Effects the actor has to discard whatever means he has learned of persuading the audience to identify itself with the characters which he plays.. more that they were supposed to.." :P Anonymous – yeah. Empty talk. and another generation cometh. A two-faced person. As scientist Mircea Badea would put it.Neah.. And when I post like this. In my smallness. :) you want on this blog. 139 . and so? so what? who cares? why me? B1 ."One generation passeth away. As Geertz used to say: the wink of a wink. with tautened neck muscles. I’m actually trying to be ironic. if you think it’s good for you... :rofl: again. A hypocrite. right? Long live probabilistic logic and professional probity. You’re making a semantic decoding mistake. B1 Nope. B1 . advertising who knows what pathetic candidate. :lol: again... if you think it’s good for you.." Anonymous . will "magically" lead the spectators' eyes and even their heads to turn with it. histrionically.) to the “ideal” one. otherwise I would never come again. Cause that’s their position description.Neah. (“Nostalgic and amused.hysteria. noseoriginating. Playing..... Empty talk.. It was irony.. His way of speaking has to be free from ecclesiastical singsong and from all those cadences which lull the spectator so that the sense gets lost. I almost forgot: our polls were good. when you said you were on the field?... e. what would I do at the finishing school? :) The most appropriate metaphor for introducing the identity of the sociologist and author in the previous example is the metaphor of the “foggy mirror”..g. of course). I don’ head butt people and I am the kind of person willing to accept another’s point of view (except if they come here to make blatant propaganda during the electoral campaign. Making fun of you. :):p :wink:”). Though I’m not ‘everybody’.. the ones you were talking about the other day. Aiming not to put his audience into a trance. there is a shift from the official identity of the sociologist (“Anonymous – Did you start getting the results of the latest surveys. somewhat rabid. As Geertz used to say: the wink of a wink. You’re making a semantic decoding mistake... such biting phrases. Playing the fool tongue-in-cheek. Only the detractors were busy eating shit. I guess you are right. Just that not everybody gets it. but also of “significant others” – as Mead (1934) used to call them – the ones who introduce themselves as readers and partners of dialogue with the author of the blog. The figures indicated in advance the positions of the candidates! They emphasized the correct tendencies. I am rereading now. I’ll let you imagine that you’re hitting me . I don’t head butt people. and this can only detract from any speculation or reaction which the gestures may bring about. he must not go into a trance himself. I think I am sad too. A storm in a glass of jelly-like substance. It was irony. as a rabid dog. Just that not everybody gets it. Of course you do it at your own risk. Including bad things. with a bloody scalpel in hand. Making fun of you. Thus. A Short Organum for the Theatre B1 – So you are calling me an actor. :) :p :wink: Anonymous – I didn’t get it... His muscles must remain loose. And when I post like this.. in the dialogue with various interlocutors certain facets of the sociologist-author’s identity are emphasized: in the same set of comments included in one post. for a turn of the head. of course). but the earth abideth forever. I don’ head butt people and I am the kind of person willing to accept another’s point of view (except if he comes here to make blatant propaganda during the electoral campaign.. Oh. I’m just myself.. And no. so I gave you a clue. I’m actually trying to be ironic. CCSB rulz. and so? so what? who cares? why me?. such biting phrases. as always. It wasn’t sadness or aggression (or was it?). UI dear. There are no o marks and the move is easier. and a mike behind his ear: suck my. Playing the fool tongue-in-cheek. advertising who knows what pathetic candidate. one month after the events…”). I bit the hand that fed me authenticity. no. not static. Playing. Not yet”. It wasn’t sadness or aggression (or was it?). the identity of the ironical narrator of reality (“Anonymous – you’re sad.

On the other hand. speech patterns. and worthy of pursuit. one might compare – based on similitude – the fashionably dressed woman described by Simone de Beauvoir to blogs that present idealized variants of identity to the public. both people and environments or 140 . describing “given off” information as “para-linguistic” or “para-communicational”. This is where imagination and imagery are played out. As a part of personal front we may include: insignia of office or rank. or “I blog. Through the choices he/she makes when introducing himself/herself and through the parts he plays in front of an audience. Some of these vehicles for conveying signs. The term (e. In their profiles and online interactions. the items that we most intimately identify with the performer himself [or herself] and that we naturally expect will follow the performer where ever he [or she] goes. although all of our participants claimed they attempted to be honest in their self-presentation. misrepresentations occurred when participants felt pressure to fudge in order to circumvent the search filters. The most “narrative” stories are the ones that describe extraordinary experiences in common-language terms. the phenomenon of “foggy mirror” arrived. Imagination entails the general cognitive capacity of human beings to fantasize about the nature of others. Conclusions We can formulate the following general observation: the blogs of Romanian sociologists bear a high degree of resemblance to the clothes we are wearing. age and racial characteristics. Thus. Miller discusses how information may be “given off” on the web.5. for instance. the blogger conveys the idealized. In regards to self-presentation. in the context of the normal tone used in the blog (See in this respect the posts previously presented in Tables 1 and 2). clothing. They wish to create a somewhat unconscious presentation of an authentic identity. and offer bloggers the possibility to understand themselves by means of a new type of text. but realistic and honest enough that subsequent face-to-face meetings would not be unpleasant or surprising. the blogs of Romanian sociologists become what Goffman calls a “personal front” for their authors. in order to retain the number of readers. therefore I am”. the most attractive and full of drama – see. 2004: 179). expressed through phrases such as: “blogito ergo sum”. Despite the fact that they are not explicitly part of the self-introduction. such as facial expression and can vary during a performance from one moment to the next”. size and looks. all these elements participate in the presentation of the author’s identity via the blog. constructed. they attempted to present a vision of self that was attractive. Consequently. felt the closed-ended options provided by the site didn’t describe them accurately. such as racial characteristics. the choice of words and subjects and so forth (Miller. “foggy mirror”) thus describes the gap between selfperceptions and the assessments made by others. The difference might be overly positive (which was typically the case) or a negative one. 1987) was one tactic by which participants reconciled these pressures. or were limited by their self-knowledge. the author is able to see for himself this development. some of these sign vehicles are relatively mobile or transitory. posture. hence comprising the tone one uses. as the aforementioned example demonstrates (See Table 2 above). are relatively fixed and over a span of time do not vary for the individual from one situation to another. attacks) in order to create veridical stories of their day-to-day life (Langellier and Peterson. Constructing a profile that reflected one’s “ideal self” (Higgins. We reckon that Hugh Miller’s observations on the presentation of self on websites are equally valid for blogs. this syntagma carrying here its original meaning (Lemert and Branaman. sex. Cyberspace thus presents a classic environment for filling in gaps through and by virtue of one’s personal psychological repertoire. facial expressions. In addition to the cases in which misrepresentation was triggered by the tendency to present an idealized self. the situation presented in Table 2 – the sociologist blogger introduces in his narration elements that belong both to his personal/private space. the most significant tension noticed in the case of the Romanian sociologists was one not unique to the online medium: Mediating between the pressures to present an enhanced or desired self (Goffman. making the stories seem sincere or trustworthy. bodily gestures.g. such as his hobby – rugby – and to his profession – sociologist. and the like. Romanian sociologists-bloggers are caught up in a sort of “creative double bind” when they choose to present their personal identity on their blogs. But at the same time they also wish to keep the audience engaged in the narrations they tell when they make use of literary conventions (plot. we can assert that blogs have a self-assertion purpose for the bloggers. in a conscious or unconscious way. In general. he often chooses the best one. the one intended for the readers of his blog. Even when a blogger tries to present a “real” variant of his personal identity. In what concerns the dimension we analysed – the construction of Romanian sociologists’ personal identity through blogs – we can assert that the blogs subjected to our analysis are characterised by this type of communication. engaging. revelations. Hence.. because as time goes by and the number of posts and the blog’s archive increase. 1988). 1959) and the need to present one’s true self to a partner in order to achieve intimacy (Reis and Shaver. public variant of his identity. 1995). 1997: 98): “One may take the term “personal front” to refer to the other items of expressive equipment. The mere fact of writing a blog offers the author a sense of identity.

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Debrecen Catholic University.com mkissova@ukf.sk Tamás Vraukó Valentina Marinescu Zsolt Győri Zsuzsanna Ujszászi t.com drkadarjudit@gmail.com szerencs@zeus.c om gyorizs@yahoo. Ružomberok Constantine the Philosopher University. Bratislava Debrecen University. Nitra University of Pardubice Eszterházy Károly College. Ružomberok Technical University.kascakova@tuke.unideb.hu 145 .marcin@gmail.nyf. Eger College of Nyíregyháza.hu University Comenius University.co. Košice Pavol Jozef Šafárik University. Bucharest Eszterházy Károly College.sk jaroslav.Contributors Name Adela Böhmerová Ágoston Tóth Dagmar Sageder Eva Kaščáková Jaroslav Marcin Judit Kádár Katalin Szerencsi Korinna Csetényi Magdaléna Bilá Mária Kiššová Petra Huschová Péter Dolmányos email bohmerovaada@yahoo. Košice Eszterházy Károly College.com magduska_bila@yahoo.hu korinnac@yahoo.nyf. Nyíregyháza University of Bucharest. Nyíregyháza Country Slovakia Hungary Slovakia Slovakia Slovakia Hungary Hungary Hungary Slovakia Slovakia Czech Republic Hungary Slovakia Hungary Roumania Hungary Hungary Simona Hevešiová shevesiova@ukf. Prešov Catholic University. Eger Constantine the Philosopher University.ku.sageder@ff.cz dpeter@ektf.sk eva.uk ujszaszi@zeus.Huschova@upce.vrauko@chello.hu dagmar. Nitra College of Nyíregyháza.marinescu@yahoo.com tagoston@delfin.hu valentina. Nyíregyháza University of Szeged. Eger College of Nyíregyháza.sk Petra. Szeged Prešov University.