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Re: [ontolog-forum] OWL and lack of identifiers

To: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>, Waclaw Kusnierczyk <Waclaw.Marcin.Kusnierczyk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: Ontolog Forum <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2007 11:29:56 -0500
Message-id: <p06230901c24a9569cff3@[]>
>Now that we agree we are splitting hairs, ...    (01)

Actually I think its more important that that. This discussion 
illustrates (in miniature) a generic problem we have in this 
community. Permit me to explain.    (02)

>[Wacek]  wrote:
>>  A formal language is a set of strings over an alphabet -- a set of
>  > symbols. ....    (03)

>[Ed replied]
>Note that the XML Recommendation also makes a distinction between
>"well-formed" and "valid".    (04)

People from different intellectual cultures are using the same words 
in related, but different, ways. As a result, we have discussions 
with the following general shape:    (05)

1. An assertion which is misunderstood
2. A response (either objection, or argument, or inappropriate 
agreement) which is based on the misunderstanding
3. A period of mutual confusion
4. A realization that we are talking different languages
5. One of the following: a rancorous argument about who is right; or, 
a dissolving of the dialog into a kind of hopeless muddle; or, a 
conversation, often tentative and fraught with misunderstanding, to 
clarify intended meanings.
6. Often, after 5., both parties realize that they are talking past 
one another and have very little of interest to communicate on this 
particular topic after all, because in fact there isn't a topic of 
mutual interest, but instead two topics, neither of mutual interest, 
brought together only by an accidental clash of usage.    (06)

We have been through this kind of a loop already with regard to the 
meanings of the words    (07)

context (a well-known tar-pit)
language    (08)

and now 'well-formed'. Fortunately, this one is clearer and narrower 
than the others, and the cultural clash sharper and better-defined, 
so provides a nice illustration.    (09)

Since this has happened so often, and is likely to happen again, I 
suggest we give it a name, so that when anyone suspects it is 
happening they can draw attention to it. I suggest 'low-five', as in 
"I think we are low-fiving each other here"    (010)

Back to the actual topic, though, I agree with Ed:    (011)

>The problem seems to be that in these ad hoc languages with multiple levels of
>parsing grammars, the traditional terminology of formal languages -- lexical,
>syntactic, semantic -- is inaccurate and insufficient.    (012)

Indeed. Traditional logical syntactic terminology (signature, 
language, well-formed, etc.) with its textbook definitions is 
inadequate for mainstream computer science purposes, even more so for 
hypertext. One needs to be able to make a variety of distinctions; 
and then some traditionally significant logical categories become 
blurred (eg the sharp difference between sorted and unsorted logical 
syntax becomes far less important).    (013)

BTW, the very idea of markup drives a truck through traditional 
syntactic categories, and provides entirely new ways to construct 
logics (since the norm, now, is for a formal language to incorporate 
aspects of its own syntactic metalanguage). We should be having fun 
here, not carping about people not sticking to 40-year-old 
definitions. Most of the time us logicians are the guys with the best 
theories, but this is one area where the XML/W3C folk, far more 
numerous than logicians, are charting entirely new territories.    (014)

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