2. Semantics reveals the meaning of
syntactically valid strings in a language.
For natural languages,
this means correlating sentences and
phrases with the objects, thoughts, and feelings of our experiences.
3. Pragmatics alludes to those aspects of
language that involve the users of
the language, namely
psychological and sociological phenomena such as
utility, scope of application, and effects on the users
above quotes reveal the misconceptions:
1 that meaning can only be attributed to syntactically valid strings in
a language (including NLs). Meaning is a much more general relation to the real
world, not necessarily connected to a language. Ferege is also wrong in that
2. If semantics deals with correlating our experience of the world, why
do pragmaitcs come under a different name for the same experience:? Why is a
social experience different from an emotional or psyhcological expereince?
Semantics is about meaning, and meaning is about context. There is no
meaning without context, which ranges from the speakers' minds, the
collocations, the definitions, explanations and some more objectively available
sources that can be agreed upon, despite a possible limited and different experience
in the subject-matter of the commuincation in wahetever modality or level
or precisison or correctness.
Human language is perfectly understandable despite serious flaws in
syntax, spelling or vocabulary, or the lack of it.
What is required for understanding is the grasping of the whole,
meaning the chunk of reality referred to by the speakers. If they are stuck,
they start drawing or pointing, and that leads to undersatndiong meaning, not a
the correct syntax or the terminal symbols identified.
I can tell you this in a longer version, should you be interested. The
paper is called Semantics in Informal Logic..
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Pat Hayes
Sent: 11 February
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum]
syntax vs semantics
Since it seems relevant , and since semantics depends on syntax,
I share snippets from the following resource for further discussion
Thanks, but note that this book is about programming languages
exclusively. Not that this makes it irrelevant, but it does mean that it has a
very particular view of what 'semantics' means, and not one that is directly
applicable to ontology formalisms, which are descriptive rather than
FWIW, the CL notion of abstract syntax is directly inspired by
McCarthy's original work cited in the second excerpt, and the RDF 'graph
syntax' is also from the same root, though further along a certain branch.
"Though it may be difficult to draw the line accurately between syntax and
semantics, we hold that issues normally dealt with from the static text should
be called syntax, and those that involve a program's behavior during execution
be called semantics. Therefore we consider syntax to have two components:
the context-fr ee syntax defined by a BNF specification and the context-
sensitive syntax consisting of context conditions or constraints that
legal programs must obey. "
"The concepts and terminology for describing the syntax of languages
from Noam Chomsky's seminal work in the 1950s—for example, [Chomsky56]
and [Chomsky59]. His classification of grammars and the related theory has
been adopted for the study of programming languages. Most of this material
falls into the area of the theory of computation. For additional material, see
[Hopcroft79] and [Martin91]. These books and many others contain results
on the expressiveness and limitations of the classes of grammars and on
derivations, derivation trees, and syntactic ambiguity.
John Backus and Peter Naur defined BNF in conjunction with the group that
developed Algol60. The report [Naur63] describing Algol syntax using BNF is
still one of the clearest presentations of a programming language, although
the semantics is given informally.
Most books on compiler writing contain extensive discussions of syntax
derivation trees, and parsing. These books sometimes confuse the
notions of concrete and abstract syntax, but they usually contain extensive
examples of lexical and syntactic analysis. We recommend [Aho86] and [Parsons92].
Compiler writers typically disagree with our distinction between syntax
and semantics, putting context constraints with semantics under the
name static semantics. Our view that static semantics is an oxymoron is
supported by [Meek90].
Abstract syntax was first described by John McCarthy in the context of Lisp
[McCarthy65a]. More material on abstract syntax and other issues pertaining
to the syntax of programming languages can be found in various textbooks
on formal syntax and semantics, including [Watt91] and [Meyer90].
The book by Roland Backhouse concentrates exclusively on the syntax of
programming languages [Backhouse79]."
Paola Di Maio
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