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Re: [ontolog-forum] Practical onomastics...

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 21 May 2010 12:50:33 -0400
Message-id: <4BF6B9D9.5090306@xxxxxxxx>
Jack Park wrote:    (01)

> Now I am confused. This thread relates to ontologies, their uses, and
> their creation and maintenance. What has a string serving as its own
> identity got to do with that?     (02)

Well, for starters, in CLIF, a quoted string refers to the sequence of 
characters inside the quotation marks.  That way you can talk about what 
the string itself is.  That is different from using the string in the 
role of identifier for some other object, which is what we usually call 
a "name".  The string itself is not a name.  Name is a use of the string 
in relation to something else.     (03)

When Matt wrote:
> A name can be its own identity. More particularly, the string used as 
> a name can be its own identity.    (04)

I believe this is the distinction he was making.    (05)

Godfrey Rust wrote:    (06)

> In some contexts yes, though I routinely work designing systems (as I'm sure 
> many others do) where names need their own identities so that statements can 
> be made about the name (for an example which I am dealing with right now: in 
> which territory is this identifier recognised, where the identifier type has 
> no inherent territorial limitations?), and if a name is its own identifier 
> then that may be ambiguous.     (07)

Terminological systems make a careful distinction here between a name 
string and the relationship of a name to a thing, which is usually 
called "designation" (although there are other terms, like 
"reference").  This is the distinction Godfrey is making.  The 
designation relationship may implicitly or explicitly involve some 
context of reference, and in general, the proper model is a ternary 
relation:  _sign_ refers to _thing_ in _context_, where _sign_ is a 
lingustic term that means some external manifestation -- a text string, 
an utterance, a gesture, an image, etc.  In that sense, a 'name' is a 
sign (a string or utterance) as used in a designation.  And _context_ is 
an undefined symbol whose definition is the source of many religious 
wars in the discipline.    (08)

If you love OWL, then 'designation' is a class of relationships, each of 
which is an instantiation of 'sign refers to thing' (aka 'thing has 
name') and each of which 'occurs in' an instance of 'context'.  In the 
last two years, I think I have seen at least 4 standards activities who 
have different models of exactly these concepts.    (09)

A further note:  whether you think of 'name' as the designation 
relationship or the role of the sign in a 'designation' is really 
immaterial: the instance of the role (per se) is unique to the instance 
of the designation relationship.  The confusion arises from using 'name' 
to refer to the sign itself, and seeing the designation relationship as 
a property of the sign, that is, thinking of the referent of the string 
as a property of the string.  In natural languages and many information 
systems, that model is naive, and not ontologically robust.  That said, 
formal languages often do exactly that -- they declare that the 
interpretation of a symbol of a certain kind is its (unique) referent  
-- but they have the luxury of enforcing a controlled vocabulary and 
formalizing the concepts of reference they use.    (010)

> But I made my tongue in cheek remark     (011)

which I thought quite apt, thank you    (012)

> because the 
> issue that John describes reflects the real world problem of "meta-metadata" 
> being much larger than the metadata it is describing, which I am finding is 
> increasingly a practical concern as the need for identity becomes more and 
> more granular.
>       (013)

I would argue that this version of 'turtles all the way down' is 
fictitious.  There are indeed cases in which there is value to a 
possibly very long source tree, like an etymology or a genealogy, but 
they are rare, and they all stop where some practical consideration 
intervenes, the usual one being the total lack of value to further 
pursuit.  (In the particular case of genealogy, the practical 
consideration is the absence of any reliable source, but that didn't 
stop etymologists. ;-) )    (014)

-Ed    (015)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (016)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (017)

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