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Re: [ontolog-forum] Re: Semantics

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Chris Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 2 May 2005 22:24:59 -0500
Message-id: <20050503032459.GA907@xxxxxxxx>
On Mon, May 02, 2005 at 07:44:56PM -0600, Schuldt, Ron L wrote:
> I would like to explore Duane's question further. 
> Isn't it safe to say that the English language has multiple
> definitions (in many instances) for a given word?  In most cases, the
> proper definition depends on the context (use) domain.     (01)

I'd agree that's safe to say.    (02)

> Isn't it also safe to say that any ontology must select a definition
> for a given word and then use it consistently throughout the ontology
> - regardless the other possible uses?     (03)

I'm still with you. :-)    (04)

> It seems to me that an ontology forces users across multiple domains
> into a model that they may or may not have selected if given their own
> choice or customary use of a definition within their own domain.    (05)

I sure seems that that could happen.    (06)

> Doesn't this create confusion for the people who ultimately build
> real-world applications using their own terminology that has been
> adopted for many-many years in a given domain.    (07)

I'm sure it could.  But one of the points of building an ontology is to
*fix* meaning and thereby to *avoid* confusion.  If someone hands me an
ontology O1, and I find a term "widget" with a familiar meaning in my
world, I can *determine* if it comports with its meaning in O1.  If I
want to keep using "widget" with my meaning, I can rename occurrences of
"widget" in O1 systematically (with "O1-widget", say) and the ambiguity
disappears.  So it seems to me the introduction of O1 into my world will
cause me confusion only if I only look at the ontology's surface
vocabulary and ignore its content -- and thereby let refuse to let it
play the role it was designed to play.      (08)

I don't want to suggest that all of this is easy; nor am I so naive as
to think that context and culture won't ever present formidable barriers
to semantic integration.  But the encouraging thing is that ontologies
provide reasonably clear paths to robust solutions to problems of
integration where before we had none.    (09)

Chris Menzel    (010)

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