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Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking for a Razor

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "sean barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 2010 17:36:56 +0100
Message-id: <31D91D059FCA44239428E9BFEF4F01CB@SMB>
 Firstly, thanks to the various people who replied. I have only had time to follow up reading suggestions sent up to Tuesday, and will take a few days to read through the various suggests since then.
 I had suspected that the answer would be semiotics, but the wikipedia article reduced semiotics to the usual categories of syntax, semantics and pragmatics, which rather misses the point. (Note to Adrian - Executable English is the problem, not the answer.) Most useful was the pointer to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry on Peirce's Theory of Signs. In fact, the starting point for the original question was Peirce's definition

"Namely, a sign is something, A, which brings something, B, its interpretant sign determined or created by it, into the same sort of correspondence with something, C, its object, as that in which itself stands to C." (C.S. Peirce, NEM 4, 20-21).

The discussion of Peirce's semiotics in the Stanford Encyclopaedia is mostly concerned to describe his taxonomies of signs, although it does discuss the Final Intepretant as being the result of a reasoning process. The taxonomy provides an indication of the sorts or knowledge that are relevant to particular types of signs, but it is not obviously a systematic account of the types of knowledge needed. I would also note that my structuralist views on the nature of language would be likely to clash with Peirce's definition that it "would finally be decided to be the true interpretation if consideration of the matter were carried so far that an ultimate opinion were reached." Unfortunately, not being a professional philosopher, I am not going to have time to follow through the various phases of Peirce's work and the issues that they raise, as discussed in the various commentaries on his work.

What was more surprising is that nobody mentioned Natural Language Processing, or systems such as CYC, where I had thought knowledge is used to disambiguate sentences. What I would be looking for here is a pointer to good a systematic, general account of the use of domain, inference and task knowledge in inferring the sense of information, covering the disambiguation of a communication act in a limited context, where context defines the range of relevant communication acts, i.e. in a shop, I only need to ground the interpretation of a request to buy three red apples as some act of purchase, and need not consider whether the interlocutor was discussing Wittgenstein.

Sean Barker, Bristol UK

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