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Re: [ontolog-forum] a skill of definition - "river"

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Mitch Harris" <maharri@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 15:09:19 -0500
Message-id: <C39BABBD8517EC4D9E0E6975F9195B8E014092AA@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> According to that definition the Okavango is not a river.    (01)

The Okavango surely is a strange kind of river.    (02)

Do you really expect to hold natural language to the same strictness
standards as formal ones?    (03)

Pardon the following longish entertainment. You can get the point stopping
after any paragraph.
Yes, it's fiction, so it is meaningless but evocative.    (04)

From 'Master and Commander' (Patrick O'Brian)    (05)

 (Stephen Maturin, the ship's physician:) 'There is only one thing I don't
 for , however' he said as the order was passed reverently round the
 table, 'and that is this foolish insistence on the word
 surgeon. "Do hereby appoint you surgeon...take upon you
 the employment of surgeon.. together with such allowance for
 wages and victuals for yourself as is usual for the surgeon
 of the said sloop." It is a false description and a false description
 is anathema to the philosophical mind.'    (06)

'I am sure it is anathema to the philosophical mind.' said James
 Dillon. 'But the naval mind fairly revels in it, so it does. Take
 that word sloop, for example.'    (07)

'Yes,' said Stephen, narrowing his eyes through the haze of port
 and trying to remember the definitions he had heard.    (08)

'Why, now, a sloop , as you know, is properly a one-masted vessel,
 with a fore-and-aft rig,. But in the Navy a sloop may be ship rigged
 - she may have three masts.'    (09)

'Or take the Sophie,' cried the master, anxious to bring
 his crumb of comfort. 'She's rightly a brig, you know, Doctor, with
 her to masts.' He held up two fingers, in case a landman might not
 fully comprehend so great a number. 'But the minute Captain Aubrey
 sets foot in her, why, she too becomes a sloop; for a brig is a
 lieutenant's command.'    (010)

'Or take me,' said Jack. 'I am called captain, but really I am
 only a master and commander.'    (011)

'Or the place where the men sleep, just for'ard,' said the purser,
 pointing. 'Rightly speaking, and official, 'tis the gun-deck, though
 there's never a gun on it. We call it the spar-deck - though there's
 no spars, neither - but some say the gun-deck still, and call the
 right gun-deck the upper-deck. Or take this brig, which is no true
 brig at all, not with her square mainsail, but rather a sorts of
 snow, or a hermaphrodite.'    (012)

'No,no my dear sir,' said James Dillon, 'never let a mere word
 grieve you heart. We have nominal captains' servants who are , in
 fact, midshipmen; we have nominal able seamen on our books who are
 scarcely breeched - they are a thousand miles away and still at
 school; we swear we have not shifted any backstays, when we shift them
 continually; and we take many under oaths that nobody believes-no, no
 you may call yourself as you please, so long as you do your duty. The
 Navy speaks in symbols, and you may suit what meaning you choose to
 the words.'
----    (013)

What's the point? Maybe formalization of natural language terms need to
follow a non-monotonic default logic? 'river' has a bunch of necessary
defaults, which the Okavango doesn't match entirely, and so an exception
subclass is made for 'non-emptying river'. I wouldn't be surprised if the
geomorphologists have already come up with appropriate appellations.    (014)

Mitch    (015)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
> [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of 
> Mike Bennett
> Sent: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 2:06 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] a skill of definition - "river"
> According to that definition the Okavango is not a river.
> So it is a good example around the issues. Are stretches 
> really "Parts" 
> of a river for example?
> I guess it's possible to set out too many characteristics of 
> something, 
> rather than just those things which, by virtue of being true of an 
> individual, make it a member of that class of thing.
> There are also some interesting mappings between things known 
> as a River 
> in English, and the terms in French for similarly river-like things.
> Mike
> Александр Шкотин wrote:
> > John has ask for "river" definition (n-s-conditions).
> >  
> > I am on a way, and have a look at this one from 
> > http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/ontology/
> >  
> > Well, this is a topographical point of view, and only n-conditions, 
> > but looks good (in Protege;):
> >  
> > http://clip2net.com/clip/m3050/1234375380-clip-16kb.png
> >  
> > Alex    (016)

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