Punctuation ambiguity is a type of ambiguity used almost exclusively in hypnosis and any field making use of the technologies of Neurolinguistic Programming.

It was identified by Richard Bandler and John Grinder as a hypnotic technique used by hypnotist Milton H. Erickson in their book "Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD" Volume I.

Punctuation ambiguity is when two well-formed sentences are overlapped, as in the following example:

I want you to notice your hand me the glass

Surface structure I: I want you to notice your hand.
Surface structure II: Hand me the glass.

The two sentences are joined by a phonologically ambiguous word, in this case hand.

Bandler and Grinder noticed that using this type of linguistic pattern with a hypnosis patient almost always resulted in one of two things: "the client... either responds immediately to the command given or stops processing with the normal linguistic processes almost immediately."

Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. Volume I by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. Meta Publications, 1975.

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