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Re: [ontolog-forum] Meanings in an ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: ravi sharma <drravisharma@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 14:49:55 -0500
Message-id: <f872f57b1002161149x3b4c8c90lfbc8d106c8ba9dca@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John and Pat
I like the 3 descriptions of meaning,
  • How well is (1) understood or prescribed by a formal process, especially describing that the ontology is complete?
  • ER, Data, Terms, Vocabularies, "information" etc can define how to do (2)?
  • For (3) as John mentions, developers / programmers / Architects seem to follow WW's definition, would it not be valuable to impart this definition and associted namespaces etc in somewhat formal way in Software and sysytems engineering courses, this comment also relates to "how to ..Future Ontologists - Ontology Summit 2010 topic."
On Sat, Feb 13, 2010 at 10:28 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

PC> At a minimum I think an ontology should aspire to the meaning
 > of "meaning" suggested by the name of "Procedural Semantics" by
 > William Woods in "Meaning and Links: AI Magazine 28(4) Winter 2007

Bill has been using the term "procedural semantics" for over 40 years.
Please note that the following statement you quoted from his 2007
paper does not go beyond a Tarski-style semantics:

WW> In this theory the meaning of a noun is a procedure for recognizing
 > or generating instances, the meaning of a proposition is a procedure
 > for determining if it is true or false, and the meaning of  an action
 > is the ability to do the action or to tell if it has been done.

Formal semantics defines the meaning of a noun (or any other part
of speech) by truth conditions.  Bill W. focused on the procedural
methods for determining whether those conditions hold (in language
recognition) or for using the assumption that those conditions
hold (in language generation).

In short, procedural semantics in WW's definition is exactly what
any programmer does in mapping a formal specification into a program.
Very often, programmers start with a program without having or using
any axioms.  But that doesn't mean that they have in any way gone
beyond what *could* be stated in axioms.

PC> ... what the entity means to a computer, which is how the computer
 > uses it in an application, which is grounded on the logical inferences
 > derivable from the ontological relations, but may be modified by
 > procedural code in an application.

I agree that programmers may (and often do) "modify" the meaning
beyond what the axioms (i.e., formal specifications) imply.
Those modifications are of two different kinds:

 1. "Issues" in Microsoft's terms or "bugs" in normal parlance,
    when they are inconsistent with the axioms.

 2. Application-dependent restrictions, when they limit the
    meaning by adding constraints that are not specified by
    the axioms.

The bugs or issues in point #1 are modifications that create
incompatibilities.  But the restrictions in point #2 are normal
in computer applications.  In fact, they are normal in everyday
speech when people apply a general term to a specific instance.

The restrictions in point #2 are no different in principle from
those stated in the axioms.  They can (and, if time and funding
allows, they should) be stated in formal axioms.

In summary, procedural semantics in WW's definition is exactly what
a programmer does in mapping formal axioms to a computer program.


(Dr. Ravi Sharma)
313 204 1740 Mobile

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