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
 and Discourse Representation Theory  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 . But also useful is . You
might look at  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 .
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
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.
 Barwise, John; John Perry. 1983. Situations and
Attitudes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
 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.
 Kadmon, Nirit. 2001. Formal Pragmatics: Semantics,
Pragmatics, Presupposition, and Focus. Wiley-Blackwell.
 Lappin, Shalom, ed. 1996. The Handbook of Contemporary
Semantic Theory, Blackwell, Oxford, UK, and Cambridge, MA, 1996.
 Blackburn, Patrick; Johan Bos. 2005. Representation and
Inference for Natural Language: A First Course in Computational Semantics.
Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
 Rao, Anand; Georgeff, Michael. 1995. BDI Agents:
>From Theory to Practice. Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute,
Melbourne, Australia. In ICMAS-95.
 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.
 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.
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of sean barker
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2010 12:37 PM
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
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