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Re: [ontolog-forum] using SKOS for controlled values for controlled voca

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: Graeme Hirst <gh@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2010 13:59:29 -0400
Message-id: <4CB4A201.1010807@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Graeme and Ed,    (01)

>> I think that Leo doesn't get the point that Graeme is trying to make.
>> My interpretation of Graeme's comment is that certain logicians, such
>> as Frege, Russell, Carnap, and Montague, were hopelessly misguided
>> about the nature of language and its relationship to logic.    (02)

> That's correct, except for two minor quibbles.
> (1) I wouldn't use the word "hopelessly", and I do not reject anything
> those four logicians have done; I merely want the limitations of their
> work to be properly understood.    (03)

I certainly admit that I learned a great deal from them, but not about
the way that NLs work.  Frege, Russell, and Carnap had a low opinion
of NLs, which they wanted to replace with a "purified" language of
logic.  I would also say that Montague misled a generation of NLP
work with comments like the following (from "Universal Grammar"):    (04)

> There is in my opinion no important theoretical difference between
> natural languages and the artificial languages of logicians; indeed,
> I consider it possible to comprehend the syntax and semantics of both
> kinds of languages within a single natural and mathematically precise
> theory.    (05)

Some of the former logic-based practitioners have now gone to the
opposite extreme with statistical methods.  I believe statistics and
logic are both useful, but they're better in combination, not isolation.    (06)

> (2) The target of my paper was specifically McCarthy & Buvac, who seem
> to believe that it is not necessary to understand a phenomenon (in this
> case, how context operates in natural language) in order to create an
> abstraction of that phenomenon....    (07)

I agree.  I learned a lot from McCarthy also, and I sympathize with
his ideas about context.  But he had also been misled by Frege and
Russell.  LW took half a lifetime to overcome their influence.    (08)

Peirce and Whitehead had a much better appreciation of NLs and their
relationship to logic -- in ways that are compatible with LW's views.    (09)

> I do not believe that many textbooks are written in natural language,
> and I am not convinced that many formal documents -- treaties, contracts,
> political positions, etc. -- are written in 'natural language'.    (010)

I would agree that those texts are very different from typical spoken
language, but there is an open-ended continuum of ways of using any NL.
In fact, that is one reason why I like Wittgenstein.  All those examples
are different "language games" that use the same vocabulary and grammar.    (011)

> It seems to be a human trait, or at least a European one, to create
> very formal languages that resemble natural language, but have purely
> technical vocabularies, and carefully chosen turns of phrase that are
> themselves technical in meaning.    (012)

But people have been creating highly specialized "technical"
vocabularies based on NLs from time immemorial.  Look at all the
nautical terms in English, which preserve 18th century technology
in frozen metaphors.  Look at all the prayers of every religion
on earth.  Many of them preserve technical terms that predate
writing.  Every sport has technical terms, which creep into the
general vocabulary:  "three strikes and you're out" or somebody
metaphorically "scored a hole in one" or "won by a knockout."    (013)

> Conversely, it has been my experience that almost all ontologies are
> subjective, which is to say, they represent the objective world as seen
> through a particular lens.  In that way, they have all of the properties
> of a semantic corpus that we assume for a natural language text, and
> document with some kind of "metadata" -- author, date, etc.  But whereas
> a natural language text can betray its viewpoint internally, by choice
> of terms and positional linkages, ontologies explicitly assume that a
> term means its formal definition and nothing more.    (014)

Yes, but Socrates said pretty much the same thing.  Aristotle spanned
the whole gamut of ways of using language -- ontology, controlled Greek
for syllogisms, methods of fallacy, rhetoric, politics, and poetics.    (015)

In earlier notes, I cited Sister Miriam Joseph's textbook on the
"Trivium" as a good introduction to knowledge representation. But
her PhD dissertation at Columbia is also available from Amazon:    (016)

http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeares-Language-Sister-Miriam-Joseph/dp/158988048X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286904705&sr=8-2    (017)

This is her analysis of "Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language",
and it's one of the rare dissertations that got a 5-star review.
In that book, she shows how the Aristotelian-Scholastic teachings
and terminology are reflected in Shakespeare's writing.    (018)

> Ontologies are yet another form of conveying knowledge, that has
> both the advantages and the limitations of technical support.    (019)

I agree.  But I would add that the there is a continuum from
informal terms in ordinary NLs to all the terminologies for
the technical fields and any and every ontology designed and
used in those fields.    (020)

John    (021)

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