Socrates' solution might have worked in ancient Athens, but we are not
living in a small polis. (02)
I don't doubt that we can agree on a sensible definition of "model
theoretic semantics" and "lexical semanits". I actually would be
surprised if among the two of us we would not be able to agree on a
definition of "semantics" proper; and if we would be really lucky, then
we would be able to convince a few of our friends to adopt our
definition of "semantics". If we were living in a polis, then this might
be enough to establish the definition, but we don't. (03)
The problem is not that there are no available definitions of
"semantics", but the plurality of proposals and the fact that none is
dominant. And the situation is made worse by people who are attracted by
the buzz around the so called "semantic web", who don't do their
homework, and are using "semantics" for "in some vague sense meaning
related". This uninformed (ab)use of "semantics" seems to increase
In short, we can agree on a sophisticated definition of "semantics",
but that does not change the fact that many more people would use
"semantics" differently, often as an empty buzzword. Thus I agree with
you that it is best to avoid the term. Alas, since it is so widely used
that this is hardly possible; so we have to live with it. (05)
John F. Sowa wrote:
> Both of those points are only partly true, and the issues involved
> were dealt with very well by Socrates:
> > "As you know, you communicate with the terms you have, not the
> > terms you might want or wish to have at a later time."
> > Thus, for now we are stuck with "semantics", and as long as the W3
> > consortium pushes for the 'semantic web', the word is not going
> > to go away.
> The solution is simple: whenever there is a confusion of terms, you
> solve the problem by drawing a distinction. Although coining a new
> word often creates more problems than it solves, there is a much
> simpler solution: just add an adjective in front of it:
> lexical semantics -- the approach commonly used by lexicographers.
> model-theoretic semantics -- the approach used by logicians.
> And so forth for as many distinctions as anyone may care to make.
> As far as the Semantic Web is concerned, the word 'semantics' only
> occurs as an adjective. Therefore, it is first and foremost a web,
> and only secondarily a kind of web that is in some unstated way
> related to some version of semantics.
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