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Re: [ontolog-forum] ambiguity interferes with

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 02:27:01 -0600
Message-id: <p06230904c21aa4ccc884@[]>
>Ambiguity is inevitable.    (01)

Absolutely. Fortunately, it is also extremely 
useful. Without ambiguity, human communication 
would be impractical. BTW, writing long, detailed 
ontologies makes names MORE ambiguous, not less 
:-)    (02)

IRIs are ambiguous *as names*, i.e. they *refer* 
ambiguously. They are also however *identifiers*, 
and in that role they are, and indeed must be, 
unambiguous: the identification mapping is 
incarnated by the Web itself, so that http can 
work. Unfortunately, discussions of what UIRs 
"mean" often gets reference and identification 
confused, leading to all kinds of misguided 
attempts to eliminate "bad" ambiguity..    (03)

For more on this point, see the following, which 
I presented at a workshop on Web architecture 
last year.    (04)

http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes/DefenseAmbiguity.htm    (05)

Pat    (06)

>It sometimes causes trouble.  For certain special cases,
>it is possible to create artificial languages that
>eliminate ambiguity -- but *only* for those special cases.
>It is not possible to eliminate ambiguity, because that
>would also freeze science, engineering, business, art, and
>*life* in a static, unalterable toy universe that endlessly
>repeats its preset moves -- like a computer program.
>See the following abstract and paper.
>Source: http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/dynonto.htm
>A Dynamic Theory of Ontology
>John F. Sowa
>Abstract.  Natural languages are easy to learn by infants, they can
>express any thought that any adult might ever conceive, and they
>accommodate the limitations of human breathing rates and short-term
>memory.  The first property implies a finite vocabulary, the second
>implies infinite extensibility, and the third implies a small upper
>bound on the length of phrases.  Together, they imply that most words in
>a natural language will have an open-ended number of senses  ambiguity
>is inevitable.  Peirce and Wittgenstein are two philosophers who
>understood that vagueness and ambiguity are not defects in language, but
>essential properties that enable it to accommodate anything and
>everything that people need to say.  In analyzing the ambiguities,
>Wittgenstein developed his theory of language games, which allow words
>to have different senses in different contexts, applications, or modes
>of use.  Recent developments in lexical semantics, which are remarkably
>compatible with the views of Peirce and Wittgenstein, are based on the
>recognition that words have an open-ended number of dynamically changing
>and context-dependent microsenses. The resulting flexibility enables
>natural languages to adapt to any possible subject from any perspective
>for any humanly conceivable purpose. To achieve a comparable level of
>flexibility with formal ontologies, this paper proposes an organization
>with a dynamically evolving collection of formal theories, systematic
>mappings to formal concept types and informal lexicons of natural
>language terms, and a modularity that allows independent distributed
>development and extension of all resources, formal and informal.
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>    (07)

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