“All doors will not open.” — operator, Amtrak Northeast Regional train, Charlottesville
In language, scope ambiguities are one of the trickiest parts of semantic theory. Semantic meaning is famously said to be determined compositionally: the meaning of a larger sentence is determined by the meanings of its smaller parts, as well as by the way these smaller parts are assembled into a whole. Even so, there can be interactions between these parts, in the sense that certain words can exert control over other words. When one word influences how another is interpreted, it is said to hold that word in its scope.
Every king admires himself. 
In this situation, the reflexive pronoun himself is given meaning by the separate noun king, which holds himself in its scope.
Let’s consider another example:
Puck didn’t solve one problem. 
What does this mean? It actually depends on how scope is assigned. It’s ambiguous. Continue reading