Rob and Pavithra,
RA> And from an ontological perspective, things get very messy when
> using words like "water", since formally speaking, water is simply
> a substance (a single molecule of H2O is water). What we often
> mean by "in water"in the context of many sentences is some "body
> of water" (a point I think John was alluding to).
Yes. In the simple example that started this discussion, the following
two English sentences have a much more complex
relationship than their
Fish live in water.
Goldfish live in rivers.
But note that the syntax of English does make a distinction. 'Water'
is a mass noun, for which the plural 'waters' means different *kinds*
of waters, not different chunks of water. 'River' is a count noun,
and the plural in the second sentence is a clue that there are more
complex interrelationships going on.
RA> ... the fact that much of human discourse occurs where the receiver
> understands what the sender actually meant, even when the expressions
> used don't technically express that meaning, is a serious conundrum
> for trying to reduce natural language to formal logics. (note my
> mis-use of "where" above).
The fact that people have excellent associative memories makes it
easy for them to use their background knowledge for
what other people mean. Therefore, speakers rarely spell out the
details that they can assume their listeners know.
Current computer systems, however, don't have such rapid associative
memories, and they depend much more on syntax than people do. But
it is possible for people to include all the background knowledge and
to formulate their sentences in very systematic syntax. That kind
of writing is necessary for *controlled natural languages*, but
such language is much too verbose and boring for human readers.
Re 'where': That is a normal metaphorical extension, which is
definitely not misuse. It is nearly impossible to avoid using
metaphor in ordinary language.
Frozen metaphors, such as using 'where' for 'place in discourse'
are so well entrenched that they are listed as word senses in
dictionaries. Those metaphors are not difficult for
computer systems. Novel metaphors are much harder to interpret.
PK> Fish are a separate classification simply called "fish": they
> are not amphibians...
That is true. But the first vertebrates that walked (actually crawled)
on land were fish. Over many generations, some of those fish evolved
into amphibians. For the intermediate forms, there was no clear
dividing line between amphibian-like fish and fish-like amphibians.
PK> Bell Labs/ Berkley/ Sun Micro systems supported developed "C"
> suite of languages and Unix and may be Linux.. (Borland was PC
> based software makers that we used to use in universities.. )
I was talking about PC software in the early 1980s. Philippe Kahn
had written a Pascal compiler as a student project. When the IBM PC
came out, he modified the back end to generate X86 code. He called
it Turbo Pascal (to
distinguish it from an earlier interpreted version
that had been available on the PC from the day IBM announced it).
Then Kahn posted an ad in Byte magazine to sell Turbo Pascal for $99.
He very quickly got 10,000 orders, which gave him a million dollars
of start-up money to form the company he called Borland. Turbo Pascal
very rapidly became *the* major programming language for serious
programming on the PC. At that time, Tiny C on the PC was still a toy.
The point I was trying to make is that the transition from Pascal to
the Pascal-like subset of Ada was trivial. If the DoD had allowed
Borland and others to use the name Ada for that subset, Turbo Ada
would very quickly have become the primary language for the PC.
As for Linux, the first kernel was written by Linus Torvalds in 1991.
That was much later.
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