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Re: [ontolog-forum] language ambiguity

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rob Freeman" <lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:46:09 +0800
Message-id: <7616afbc0802131846w67058268qd17fb90e79046030@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

I was thinking of Pinker. I know him mostly for his book "The Language
Instinct".    (02)

Perhaps it is not surprising to hear him now presenting many of
Talmy's ideas. There is a clear appeal in cognitive linguistics, and
of all the cognitive linguists, Talmy is most friendly to
generativism.    (03)

As for cognitive linguistics itself, while I agree there is a strong
mapping between language and cognition, I disagree with the idea that
there are cognitive primitives which explain language structure. You
might say I take the opposite view. I think the complexity of language
structure (possible combinations among ambiguous words) can explain
the detail of cognition. So, the other way around. For me ambiguity is
important because it allows more combinations (c.f. randomness.)
That's what I called my "strong position" on ambiguity.    (04)

Actually Talmy's verb-framed/satellite-framed distinction I mentioned
reflected my complexity ideas in a way. It distinguishes languages
which code meaning mostly in the verb, from those that code mostly
across the verb. So English can say "roll down a hill" and the idea of
motion is outside the verb, across the words around it, not in the
verb itself ("roll" is manner.) In French the motion must be in the
verb, and manner requires a whole other clause. That's how I recall
it. I should check.    (05)

That makes satellite-framed languages more compact (though less
concise?) More meaning is coded in relationships between words. You
need fewer actual words. (Fewer words for the same meaning, but
sometimes it makes you say more words because the meaning is all
tangled up.) Talmy had a nice example "Now you just come right down
out of there." Where none of the actual words mean much at all.    (06)

You might say I extend this idea that combinations between words can
code more compactly (though less concisely?) And talk about what it
means for the completeness with which meanings can be enumerated.    (07)

Interesting to hear you were right in there at the "Language Wars". I
enjoyed reading some essays by Frank Newmeyer's on that period.    (08)

-Rob    (09)

On Feb 14, 2008 12:28 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Rob,
> Who is that famous advocate of Chomsky's generative grammar that
> converted to Talmy's approach?  Are you talking about Jackendoff?
>  > The thing which stuns me about this is that the famous advocate
>  > of Chomsky's generativism now seems to be a convert to Len Talmy's
>  > Cognitive Linguistics! There is a strong flavour of Talmy in this
>  > talk.
> Although Jackendoff has been developing a linguistic-based version
> of conceptual structures for a long time, he's still very much in
> the Chomsky tradition.  Unlike Talmy, who has always done a cross
> language study of semantics, Jackendoff still begins with syntax.
> He still supports Chomsky's position of an innate syntax.
> I have been in the anti-Chomsky crowd and a partisan of the semantic
> crowd since 1968 -- that's when I wrote a term paper on conceptual
> graphs for Marvin Minsky's AI course at MIT.  In my 1984 book, the
> concluding chapter was "Limits of Conceptualization".  That was
> an early version of ideas that I later presented in my articles
> on knowledge soup.  See
>     http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/challenge.pdf
>     The Challenge of Knowledge Soup
> In 1987, I taught a one-quarter course as a visitor to Stanford,
> in which I used my _Conceptual Structures_ book (1984) as the text.
> One of the students was trying to develop an ontology of spatial
> relations for representing structures in civil engineering.
> For her term paper, I recommended Talmy's papers on representing
> spatial relations in multiple languages.  She wrote a very good
> term paper, which she later developed into a PhD dissertation in
> civil engineering.  A few years later, I met her thesis adviser,
> who said that the civil engineering dept. at Stanford continued
> to develop that approach.
> For a brief summary of some aspects of Talmy's system, see
>     http://elies.rediris.es/elies11/cap2.htm
>     2. Talmy's Typology
> This is one chapter of a comparative analysis of the representation
> of directed motion in English and Spanish:
>     http://elies.rediris.es/elies11/
> These studies illustrate several points:
>   1. Linguistic structures across various languages and even within
>      a single language reflect a variety of semantic relationships
>      for representing related phenomena.
>   2. There are many similarities across languages, but different
>      languages make different choices of defaults and options.
>   3. A study of the cross-linguistic semantic patterns can provide
>      a good basis for developing an ontology to support the computer
>      representation of semantic information.
>   4. But the choice of ontology depends very much on the nature
>      of the problem, and no one-size-fits-all ontology can ever be
>      adequate for all possible problems and perspectives.
> I emphasized these points in my 1984 book, my 2000 book, and many
> articles before, after, and during those times.
> John    (010)

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