6. The recognition of ambiguity.

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The syntactic distinction between deep and surface structure ambiguity (MacKay & Bever, 1967) is challenged on theoretical and empirical grounds. It is argued that both types of ambiguity can be resolved at the level of surface syntactic structure, contrary to the MacKay & Bever hypothesis that the types are syntactically distinct and have distinct behavioural consequences. A psycholinguistic experiment is reported which investigated naive native speakers' recognition of ambiguity. No significant difference in error scores was found between the two types of structural ambiguity, although both differed significantly from lexical ambiguity. The MacKay & Bever results are reexamined and it is concluded that their results can be accounted for in terms of surface clause complexity of the stimuli rather than in terms of two types of structural ambiguity.


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