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Re: [ontolog-forum] Requirements of computer language semantics

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 12:23:29 -0500
Message-id: <3E1CE8B4-1EAE-4640-B2B2-1F7BFC5F5CF5@xxxxxxxx>
On Mar 18, 2009, at 9:55 AM, Richard H. McCullough wrote:
> Christopher Spottiswoode:
> John Sowa has addressed these issues in number of emails. His latest  
> email (3/17/2009 12:27 PM) suggests an alternative method of formal  
> definition --    (01)

More exactly, John was talking about a method of providing a formal  
*semantics* for a language, which presupposes that the syntax of the  
language must already be clearly defined.    (02)

> translation to an existing language, such as IKL or CL, which has  
> already been formally defined.    (03)

That is, an existing language whose *semantics* has already been  
formally defined. Done right this is a theoretically effective way to  
provide a semantics for a given language.  But, unless one's source  
language L1 is very simple or very similar to the target language L2,  
defining such a translation is far from trivial and, frankly, it only  
makes sense to do so if there is an independent reason to map L1 into  
L2, as it forces users of L1 to go work through the translation to  
figure out its semantics.  Other things being equal, it makes a great  
deal more sense to provide a semantics for L1 directly.    (04)

Chris Menzel    (05)

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>; "Christopher
> Menzel" <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:50 AM
> Subject: [ontolog-forum] Requirements of computer language semantics
>> Chris,
>> On March 17 you had written (where I have anonymized your reference  
>> to a language):
>>> [If] you want [your language] to be of general use as anontology  
>>> language that helps us to leverage high-speed computernetworks to  
>>> share, integrate, and reason upon large bodies ofinformation, then  
>>> [your language] needs a formal semantics that(i) fixes the  
>>> meanings of its primitive constructs and (ii)assigns definite  
>>> meanings to complex expressions recursively interms of the  
>>> meanings of their simpler parts. Without this itis impossible to  
>>> guarantee that information has been exchangedand integrated  
>>> accurately and that inferences drawn on the basisof  
>>> thatinformation are sound.
>> That seems to me a nicely succinct, self-contained yetappropriately  
>> contextualized statement of requirements - and thankyou for it!
>> But I would like to quote you on it (in my long-promised  
>> "5thinstalment" of my "MACK basics" series from last year, which  
>> isabout to resume, along with some key supporting material (so  
>> thatyou know what you might be letting yourself in for!)).
>> So would you perhaps like to qualify it, or expand on it (thoughnot  
>> too much!)? Or refer me rather to some other such statementby  
>> yourself, or by someone else?
>> Then a further question (hopefully not a sting in the tail):Would  
>> it undermine your whole intent if you dropped the word"ontology"  
>> from the opening conditional clause?
>> Christopher    (06)

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