19 December 2012

Digital Image Processing

A colleague asked me: what is meant in English by 'Digital Image Processing'? Is it the digital processing of images (i.e. 'digital [image processing]', with the adjective 'digital' modifying the compound noun 'image processing'? Or is it instead the processing of digital images, (i.e. '[digital image] processing', with the compound 'digital image' modifying the noun 'processing'?

I had to say: I don't know. As far as I can see, it is ambiguous, and it could be interpreted either way.

In fact, this kind of ambiguity is commonplace in English. Does a 'red chair cover' refer to a chair cover that is red, or is it a cover for red chairs? Does 'best train timetables' refer to timetables for the best trains, or to the best timetables for trains?