Ambiguity in Ikwere: an exploration

  • Roseline I.C. Alerechi
  • Samuel F. Joshua
Keywords: Ambiguity, lexical ambiguity, polysemy, homonyms, structural ambiguity


Ambiguity in any language of the world is a clog in the wheel of effective communication. As a first attempt in this area of semantics in the language; this paper specifically treats polysemy and homonymy as the lexical components of ambiguity in Ikwere, an Igboid language spoken in Rivers State of Nigeria. It also analyzes some structural ambiguities resulting from certain syntactic structures. The data for this study are obtained through direct interviews with competent language consultants and through the participant observation method. The descriptive method of interlinear morpheme- to- morpheme glossing is employed in the analysis of ambiguous constructions. The work identifies polysemy in nouns and verbs in the language. Of notable significance is the polysemous behaviour of the verb ‘eat’, which is analyzed as having a core sense and twelve (12) different metaphorical or figurative extensions of the core. The paper further observed homonymous nouns, adjectives, verbs and a number of ambiguous sentences. As a way of disambiguating ambiguous expressions in the language, the work suggests three likely strategies namely: substitution of the subject-pronoun with the appropriate noun subject; completing the phrase or sentence for additional information, and supplying additional  sentence. It is believed that this paper will not only serve as a stepping stone for further research in the language, it will also contribute to the body of literature in semantics.

Kewords: Ambiguity, lexical ambiguity, polysemy, homonyms, structural ambiguity


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5460
print ISSN: 2225-8604