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Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking for a Razor

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Obrst, Leo J." <lobrst@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 2010 19:17:39 -0400
Message-id: <0111C34BD897FD41841D60396F2AD3D304CEF0BB6A@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>



You need to look at 1) agent communication languages such as KQML and FIPA’s ACL, which are both founded on two items: A) semantic transmission of data (assertions  and the  KR language they are encoded in); B) speech act theory as the quasi-natural language notion of formal pragmatics (interpretation of semantics in context, with  respect to use and intent) about how to  frame the assertion, i.e., as a declarative assertion of fact (Tell), as a query/interrogatory (Ask), or as an imperative/command (Do); 2)the  formal pragmatics of natural language including speech act theory, which frames the natural language semantics; best to look at Situation Semantics/Theory [1] and Discourse Representation Theory [2] for this latter, if you want the theory, and of course speech act theory . Probably you can get some understanding of these from Wikipedia. Nirit Kadmon has a good book on formal pragmatics, but from the linguistic perspective too [3]. But also useful is [4].  You might look at [5] if you really want to do some symbolic computational semantics.


Other notions from intelligent agent technology include “high end” logical approaches such as BDI (Belief-Desire-Intention) agents [6].  Unfortunately, agent technology has fallen by the way-side, given more recent interest in services, i.e., the tasks that can get executed or that agents can perform.


Some folks have tried to formalize some aspects  of the “context” you seem to intend [7,8]. There is a huge literature on formalizing context, which I won’t go into here.


You seem to be addressing  1) vocabularies/terminologies, i.e., NL terms, and 2) concepts/real world items, i.e., ontologies, and how (1) is used to refer to (2), and then (3) pragmatic contextualizing of (1) with respect to (2). Forgive me if I misinterpret your intent.


To me, “semiotics” is still too abstract/general to get you anywhere soon, unfortunately. Even linguistics can leave you dazed.                                                                                                                                                                                 


I hope this helps a bit.





[1]  Barwise,  John; John Perry. 1983. Situations and Attitudes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[2] Kamp, Hans; Reyle, Uwe.  1993.  From Discourse to Logic: Introduction to Model-theoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Logic and Representation Theory, Part 1 and 2,  Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands.

[3] Kadmon, Nirit. 2001. Formal Pragmatics: Semantics, Pragmatics, Presupposition, and Focus. Wiley-Blackwell.

[4] Lappin, Shalom, ed. 1996. The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, Blackwell, Oxford, UK, and Cambridge, MA, 1996.

[5] Blackburn, Patrick; Johan Bos. 2005. Representation and Inference for Natural Language: A First Course in Computational Semantics. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

[6] Rao, Anand; Georgeff, Michael.  1995.  BDI Agents: >From Theory to Practice.  Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute, Melbourne, Australia.  In ICMAS-95.    

[7] Giunchiglia, Fausto; Ghidini, Chiara.  1998. Local Models Semantics, or Contextual Reasoning = Locality + Compatibility. Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR'98), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference, Trento, Italy, June 2-5, 1998, Anthony Cohn, Lenhart Schubert, Stuart Shapiro, eds., pp. 282-289.

[8] Bouquet, Paolo; Fausto Giunchiglia; Frank Van Harmelen; Luciano Serafini; Heiner Stuckenschmidt. 2003. C-OWL: contextualizing ontologies. 2nd international semantic web conference (ISWC 2003), edited by Dieter Fensel and Katia p. Sycara and John Mylopoulos, Sanibel Island (Fla.), 20-23 October 2003, pp. 164-179.


From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of sean barker
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2010 12:37 PM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking for a Razor


 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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