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Re: [ontolog-forum] A different approach to ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 13:15:57 -0400
Message-id: <482C6FCD.1090601@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ravi,    (01)

We did discuss some points about Sanskrit and related Indoeuropean 
languages, but I never agreed to the following point:    (02)

 > based on our earlier thread (that Sanskrit is a completely
 > computer analyzable language with exactness - as much as
 > possible - compared to other languages such as English)    (03)

Sanskrit is one of the oldest Indoeuropean languages for which
there are records, and it is the oldest for which there is an
extensive literature.  In structure, Sanskrit has many features,
such as a very detailed inflectional system, which resemble
those of some modern Indoeuropean languages, such as Russian.    (04)

However, the following points can be made about *every* natural
language, including Sanskrit, English, and Russian:    (05)

  1. All NLs have sufficient syntactic resources to make
     statements that are as precise as anything that can
     be stated in any formal language, such as logics and
     programming languages.    (06)

  2. But people have the ability to bring all their background
     knowledge to bear on interpreting sentences in context, and
     that ability gives them tremendous power to resolve any
     ambiguities or to interpret language in noisy environments.    (07)

  3. Therefore, speakers and writers rely on the power of their
     audience to interpret what they say, and they typically
     omit all the detail that their audience can infer from
     the context and their background knowledge.    (08)

As a result of the above points, *all* natural languages,
as they are used, tend to be highly ambiguous if processed
by a computer that does not have all that background knowledge.
Different languages may force one aspect or another to be
stated more precisely, but on the average, there is no NL
that is substantially more precise than any other.    (09)

One example is Japanese, which has *postpositions* following
the nouns in order to state relationships very precisely.
However, those precise markers make it possible to omit any
noun phrase that can be understood from context.  Therefore,
normal Japanese speech and writing is extremely ambiguous.    (010)

The suggestion that Sanskrit should be used as a foundation
for analyzing all languages reminds me of a talk that was
presented at IBM Research in Yorktown many years ago.    (011)

The speaker, who was Japanese, was claiming that all the
features that enable Japanese to be very precise would make
it the best language for computer processing.  However, he
ignored the fact that most Japanese sentences, as they are
typically spoken, are extremely ambiguous.    (012)

John    (013)

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