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Re: [ontolog-forum] (OT) German

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2008 10:52:12 -0500
Message-id: <4788E22C.1030901@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ravi,    (01)

If you know Sanskrit, you have a head start toward PIE:    (02)

 > It is amazing that I could read some words with meaning in PIE.    (03)

In reconstructing hypothetical PIE, linguists relied heavily
on Sanskrit as evidence.  The oldest versions of Greek and Latin
are several hundred years younger than the oldest Sanskrit texts.
Comparisons with the Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic languages have
been valuable, but the oldest texts in those languages are about
a thousand years younger than the Greek and Latin ones.    (04)

 > I have personally not been able to translate simple Sanskrit for
 > English language audiences. For example the mis-translation of
 > Yagna or yajna is Sacrifice but more meaningful is Transformation,
 > Agni is fire but in several contexts it takes many pre and post fixes.    (05)

Such issues are very serious obstacles to translation, and they
illustrate a fundamental problem of ontology:  most of the differences
in meaning are not the result of a weakness in language, but of the
inevitable divergence in cultures that develop independently over
periods of many centuries.    (06)

The western European languages, even though they come from different
language families, such as French, German, Hungarian, and Polish,
all share a common culture.  Therefore, the vocabularies of those
languages have become aligned because of many interactions among
people who have worked (and fought) together for centuries.    (07)

As just one example, Polish and Russian are two closely related
languages that have many common roots.  But Poland has been more
closely connected to the west than he east.  As a result, many
Polish words are aligned with western European languages, even
though the roots are closer to Russian.    (08)

For example, the Russian word pisat' has two meanings:  write or
paint.  The cognate Polish word pisac means write, and there is
a separate word malowac for paint.  The word malowac is not derived
from native Slavic roots, but from the German verb mahlen, to paint.
By borrowing that verb from German, the Polish vocabulary has become
better aligned with other European languages, including English and
French, which are even farther west.    (09)

 > What is a convergent approach that would make sense and provide them
 > the IT and other tools to study traumatic stress for the war torn
 > minds.    (010)

That's a very important problem, and we hope that new developments
in cognitive science will help address it.  The issues of ontology
and machine translation are related, but they're more peripheral.    (011)

John    (012)

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