I'm a Linguistics student at your almamater and my non-Linguistics student boyfriend, as lovely as he is, seems to be a bit misguided in the fact that he is absolutely convinced that it is possible to one day invent a language which completely eliminates all ambiguity. I pointed him in the direction of pragmatics, arguing that no invented language could eliminate something like pragmatic ambiguity, but he seems absolutely convinced that it could and *should* be eliminated. What do you think?
If we were really better off without ambiguity in our languages, we wouldn’t have it. But you should ask him to define ambiguity first. I gather he probably wouldn’t distinguish between the different types of ambiguity—e.g. syntactic vs. lexical. But if you go down that rabbit hole, you’ll quickly find there’s no bottom. By that I mean we couldn’t really have lexical items if we wanted to be certain that we only ever referred to unique objects, people, or processes. Take a word like “man”. Terribly vague. It could be anybody that fills a certain number of characteristics (and these characteristics, incidentally, are not anything that can be absolutely determined. Not all people agree what those characteristics are). So a sentence like “I talked to a man yesterday” is specific for me, in that I’m referring to some specific man I talked to, in my estimation, but the word is not. The word is ambiguous. If you go that route, you may as well get rid of all human nouns and replace them all with unique identifiers (note that names aren’t unique enough for this).
And then moving on to objects, consider that all objects are situated in space and time. Even if you’re talking about a ball bearing manufactured in the best ball bearing factory in the world which ensures that every single ball bearing is identical as possible, each one will only ever occupy one specific place in time and space. So they’re all unique, and each will require its own unique designation—with a time stamp (recall how different we humans are depending on the time you find us. Like I don’t care how tough you are, me at 20 can beat you up at 1 year old. Boxer? Weightlifter? Soldier? Don’t care. MY 20 YEAR OLD SELF WILL TAKE ON YOUR ONE YEAR OLD SELF AND PUT YOU IN THE GROUND).
And think about actions—like the verb “kick”. We know what it means. But has there ever been any two kicks that were identical?! How imprecise that we just have one word for all these different types of motions! And yet we tolerate it!
And don’t even get me started on modifiers like “hot” or “red” or “acceptable”. Like “acceptable”, really?! Just…no.
So yeah, talking about eliminating ambiguity is misunderstanding the nature of…everything, I guess. You can only eliminate ambiguity within a specific domain of experience. The result probably wouldn’t be too useful, though.
For an attempt at this, see John Quijada’s Ithkuil, which is a great language, but which picks its battles. Even so, though, note that John isn’t pushing this as a language that everyone should learn and use in their daily life. That’s not the point. It’s a philosophical experiment—and a good one—but it’s not supposed to be a chatting language you use as a primary means of communication.