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Re: [ontolog-forum] Role of definitions (Remember the poor human)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 15:20:20 -0500
Message-id: <45D21D84.7000008@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Adrian,    (01)

I would agree:    (02)

 > The point is, that one can usefully use English sentences
 > in unexpected ways, so long as the way in which they are
 > used is somehow grounded.    (03)

The fundamental ground is the collective experience of the
entire society that uses the language.    (04)

AW> I like to refer to Tom Stoppard's stage play about the
 > Wittgenstinian uses of language.  During the play, the audience
 > are taught entirely new meanings for many English words, through
 > the device of illustrating the meanings by actions on stage.
 > By the end of the play, the audience knows that, to insult someone,
 > you call them a "bicycle".  To mortally insult them, you call them
 > a "tricycle".  It's fun, but with a point that's relevant for our
 > discussion here.    (05)

That's an excellent example.  The ground for it is the common
experience of the audience, which is a small, but appropriate
social structure for creating and crystallizing word senses.    (06)

For English, Shakespeare and the King James Bible established
the core vocabulary.  For French, the 17th-century playwrights
established the core language.  For German, Martin Luther's
Bible established the foundation, and Goethe updated it.    (07)

In modern times, movies and TV shows have an enormous influence.
But common usage in science, engineering, business, medicine,
politics, technology, and sports also creates new word senses;
e.g., "Three strikes and you're out" or "The refrigerator is down."    (08)

There is still an enormous amount of 17th century sailing jargon
in English -- e.g., "by and large", "backing and filling", or
"in the offing".  Not many people today think of "the offing" as
the part of the sea outside the harbor but within sight of land.    (09)

AW> Of course, this is a way of going around some deep research
 > problems about Natural Language, rather than confronting them.    (010)

On the contrary, such examples illustrate the fundamental principles
of language use, learning, and evolution.  By comparison, Montague's
approach is an oversimplified and inflexible approximation to a
tiny subset of language use.  However, that subset is sufficiently
useful that I recommend it as a basis for languages such as CLCE.    (011)

John    (012)

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