"Hilarious comedy featuring Eddie Murphy"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Leni85, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. Leni85 New Member

    "Hilarious comedy featuring Eddie Murphy"

    Could someone explain the structural ambiguity in this sentence? I recognize only the obvious meaning of the sentence, that is that Eddie Murphy has a role in the hilarious comedy.

    The above example of structural ambiguity is from a written exam on English lexicology.

    Thank you.
  2. M1991 Member

    Washington DC
    hmmm, I think if there is any ambiguity, it is in the word comedy.

    comedy could be humor, or it could be a movie, right?
  3. Leni85 New Member

    You might be right. But I think that than there would be lexical ambiguity in the sentence, and not structural. Is there ambiguity in "featuring" maybe?
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    This isn't a complete sentence; it is a fragment of a sentence. What is the full sentence?
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    First of all, it's not a proper sentence. Is that all you have to work with?
  6. Leni85 New Member

    That was all that was given. The task was to explain the ambiguity in the fragment.
  7. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    The only ambiguity that I see is that "featuring" might or might not mean "starring," i.e. the top-billed performer.

    For example, the long-running American TV comedy Saturday Night Live, (which, by the way is where the incredibly talented Eddie Murphy got his start) lists performers first as "starring," meaning permanent cast members and then "featuring," listing performers who are aspiring to permanency.

    Were I teaching a class, I would not expect leaners of English to make such a fine distinction in a test.
  8. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    This seems more like one possible understanding of a structurally ambiguous sentence, rather than an ambiguous phrase in itself. What else is in the exam exercise? I don't see any ambiguity here. If there is any it is very subtle.

    A textbook example (a headline):
    "Painting found by tree"
    The ambiguity is obvious here. "By" can mean that the subject performs the action "find", or it can mean "near to". It's structurally ambiguous, but not logically, as a tree cannot do the action "find".

    In the topic example a comedy can have the attribute "feature", and I don't see what else can. I don't see any other elements that could be structurally ambiguous.

    It doesn't matter that the phrase is not grammatically a sentence.
  9. M1991 Member

    Washington DC
    I suppose featuring could be the act of "featuring" or giving shape to?

    Whatever the ambiguity there is, it's not overt.
  10. Leni85 New Member

    Thank you very much for your help! I must admit that I have had problem finding a solution by myself. :)
  11. Leni85 New Member

    Thank you all for your help. I did not write the exercise on the exam and I was dissapointed because I did not have the slightest clue what the ambiguous in the fragment would be. I will have more questions for you as I am preparing the exam again. :)
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2009

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