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[ontolog-forum] syntax & semantics

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, KR-language <KR-language@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Richard H. McCullough" <rhm@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 2009 09:15:02 -0700
Message-id: <1DAD62740B504468B7C5D7417D148361@rhm8200>
According to the dictionary,
    the syntax of a language is
    the grammatical rules for combining terms
    into phrases and sentences of a language.
    the semantics of a language is
    the relation of terms to their meanings --
    the things which those terms denote/refer to.
In a most unfortunate perversion of definitions,
probably due to the influence of Noam Chomsky,
"formal semantics"/"model theory" is concerned
with the syntax of a language, independent of
the semantics of a language.  Formal semantics
looks at the properties of the syntax of a language
which do not depend on the actual semantics of the
That is why I associate
syntax with "possible meaning"
and semantics with "real meaning".
You (and Pat Hayes and Chris Menzel) are very
focused on syntax.  Whenever I mention some
issue relating to the semantics of mKR, you change
the subject to [the "missing" documentation of]
the syntax of mKR.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that semantics
logically precedes syntax.  As a language evolves,
there is an interaction between syntax and semantics,
but syntax is the servant of semantics.
Dick McCullough

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