Unfortunately, the distinction between semantics and pragmatics is not
so clear cut. (02)
Let's assume I observe how you go into a shop and you say to the shopman
"I want to buy a cleat. A cleat is a piece of rope work." Let's further
assume that the shopman sells you the cleat without saying any word. (03)
- If I study the truth-conditions of the sentence "A cleat is a piece of
rope work" and how the words that you used relate to reality, then I am
- If I study the curious fact that the sound waves that you produce in
this situation can cause a sequence of actions of the clerk and you (the
clerk goes to his store room, fetches an object, goes back, shows you
the object, you approve, he takes your money, you take the object),
then I am studying the pragmatics of your utterance. This is the aspect
of pragmatics is concerned with the relation between utterances and
actions, in this case the utterance of "I want to buy a cleat" is the
action of ordering an object and this is initiating a rule governed
sequence of behaviors that is finalized with an exchange of money for a
product. Other example of "how you can do things with words" is calling
somebody names or the utterance of "Will you marry me?" in the right
context. In one you are insulting someone, in the other one you
proposed; both are actions even in the legal sense.
- An example for a not so clear cut case is if one wants to study the
truth-conditions of the sentence "I want to buy a cleat". This is not
within the realm of semantics, because the term "I" refers to the
speaker. And -- per definition -- everything which is about the relation
between words and a speaker is within the domain of pragmatics. This is
an example where pragmatics would not be concerned with behavior. (04)
I should say that the boundary between pragmatics and semantics is
notoriously fuzzy. As a student I attended a seminar where we studied
different definitions of "semantics" and "pragmatics". Its a long time
ago and I forgot almost everything except there was no consensus among
linguists and that all proposals had their weaknesses. (05)
The only people who made up their mind are logicians: according to them
whatever aspect of 'meaning' they can analyze with the help of a model
theory is semantics, everything else is pragmatics. This is the garbage
can definition of "pragmatics". :-) (06)
Barker, Sean (UK) wrote:
> If I use part description to help the storeman check he is
> getting the right part out of the store, I seem to be dealing in
> pragmatics, if I concern myself with the way words talk about to the
> world, I'm into semantics. That is, pragmatics is about behaviour and
> semantics about mappings, and which I use depends on what I am trying to
> do. Have I understood you correctly?
> 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: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of
>> Fabian Neuhaus
>> Sent: 30 August 2007 18:29
>> To: [ontolog-forum]
>> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Current Semantic Web Layer pizza
>> (was ckae)
>> 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.
>>> My view, more precisely, is that
>>> anything called semantics must be grounded in pragmatics to
>> make sense.
>> 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.
>> 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 case.
>>> 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
>>> 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
>>>> *** WARNING ***
>>>> This mail has originated outside your organization, either from an
>>>> external partner or the Global Internet.
>>>> Keep this in mind if you answer this message.
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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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