I think that your example does not support your argument. Your example
shows that "cleat" is used ambiguously, namely it is used by designers
to refer to a small metal tie and by the naval community to refer to a
piece of rope work. Since the ambiguity concerns the relation between a
word and its denotation in the world, this is within the realm of
semantics. Pragmatics is about the relationship of language expressions
to the speaker and listener and the use of languages. Typical topics
that are studied under the label "pragmatics" in linguistics are the use
of pronouns and deictic expressions. Further, differences in `meaning'
that does not have any effect on truth-conditions are studied in
pragmatics. For example, "Fabian is a German" and "Fabian is a Kraut"
have both the same truth-conditions, thus the semantics of them is
the same. However, there is a pragmatic difference, since 'Kraut' is
supposed to be pejorative. (01)
> My view, more precisely, is that
> anything called semantics must be grounded in pragmatics to make sense. (02)
I am not sure whether I agree with this statement. If you just mean that
a language has no semantics if it is not used, then this is certainly
true. However, if you mean that semantics cannot be studied
independently from pragmatics I disagree. The situation is somehow
analogous to the relationship between biology and chemistry: all
biological processes are grounded in chemical processes and many
biological processes can only be explained by referring to chemical
processes. Nevertheless, many topics in biology can be studied without
dealing with chemistry. Analogously, the semantics of expressions of a
language are grounded in their use, and there is some overlap between
semantics and pragmatics, e.g. in the case of statements that involve
deictic expressions or pronouns. But there are certain areas where
semantics of languages can be studied independently from their
pragmatics. This is true for natural languages, and much more so for
formal languages like the ones used for ontologies or information
technology applications. (03)
Barker, Sean (UK) wrote:
> Thanks for your patience. My view, more precisely, is that
> anything called semantics must be grounded in pragmatics to make sense.
> If semantics has a use, it is in creating systems of terms, and
> structuring their differentia. I would explicitly reject the idea that a
> single term taken in isolation has any semantics other than those
> exhibited through the pragmatics, if only because terms themselves are
> differential - definition goes by genus and species.
> The reason I want to insist on this is that, in data exchange,
> insisting on merely "defining" terms is a fast route to failure. Success
> comes only when one has compared the way different organizations use
> terms. Definitions are not a substitute for due diligence. They only
> work where one is assured of a common culture. For example, many
> companies have to translate part descriptions used by designers into
> NATO standard technology. One example: in one design office, the term
> "cleat" was used to refer to a small metal tie connecting two components
> together, whereas the official NATO definition of cleat is a piece of
> rope work. One of my colleagues observed that cleat is usually a naval
> term, and has suggested that this term came into the aircraft industry
> from one of the old flying boat manufacturers, which was itself
> originally shipyard.
> From a project management viewpoint, in a data exchange project,
> this is the most important thing you must say, and you must say it on
> day one. Otherwise you run the risk that the customer will treat the
> project as a technical problem, and fail to commit the effort that they
> need to put in to validate and test the exchange - this can be 70-90% of
> the project costs.
> The ontology and Semantic Web worlds would be well advised to
> look seriously at the data exchange world. Despite the technical
> limitations of data modelling, data exchange is extensively used in the
> engineering industries, however this did not happen before they had done
> a great deal of work trying to get it right. Several years ago, the
> estimated government and industrial investment just to develop the STEP
> series of standards stood at $400,000,000. To get industrial acceptance,
> ontology based systems will need to prove as reliable and more cost
> effective than data model based approaches. Currently, this is not the
> I should also note that in discussions with other people in the
> European aerospace industry, the idea that information interchange
> should be based on pragmatics is uncontroversial.
> Sean Barker
> Bristol, UK
> This mail is publicly posted to a distribution list as part of a process
> of public discussion, any automatically generated statements to the
> contrary non-withstanding. It is the opinion of the author, and does not
> represent an official company view.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: John F. Sowa [mailto:sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx]
>> Sent: 30 August 2007 03:55
>> To: Barker, Sean (UK)
>> Cc: [ontolog-forum]
>> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Current Semantic Web Layer pizza
>> (was ckae)
>> *** WARNING ***
>> This mail has originated outside your organization, either
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>> I'm glad that you found the 3-way distinction helpful, but I
>> want to emphasize three very important points:
>> 1. It is possible to have syntax by itself without semantics or
>> pragmatics. That would be a purely uninterpreted notation
>> with no meaning other than to create strings of symbols.
>> 2. It is possible to have syntax and semantics without pragmatics.
>> That would be a pure description of something, such as a list
>> of observed data with no indication of what to do.
>> 3. For any practical language of any use in engineering, it is
>> essential to have all three: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.
>> SB> I shall keep to Pragmatics in future, believing as I do that
>> > Semantics is a useful heuristic....
>> No. You cannot do pragmatics without having syntax and semantics.
>> It's impossible to say anything without syntax. It's
>> impossible to refer to anything without semantics. And it's
>> impossible to do anything pragmatically without being able to
>> make statements
>> (syntax) that refer to something (semantics).
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