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Re: [ontolog-forum] Using controlled natural languages for ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011 11:58:05 -0500
Message-id: <4D79031D.9090106@xxxxxxxx>

Simon Spero wrote:
> On Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 11:01 PM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx 
> <mailto:sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
>     On 3/6/2011 10:39 PM, Zhuk, Yefim wrote:
>     > I'd think of CNL as an intermediate step towards ontology...
>     It's more like an alternate notation for logic that makes comments
>     readable by both the humans and the computer.
>     A controlled natural language has a formally defined mapping to
>     and from some version of logic.  Its main advantage is that
>     it can be read as if it were ordinary language.
> There may be some small  differences in ease of reading between CNL 
> and regular NL, but  these do not appear to be important.  
> Tobias Kuhn (until recently a student of Norbert Fuchs)   has  some 
> interesting results on the understandability of controlled natural 
> language in his dissertation (see Chapter 5 in Kuhn (2010) for info). 
>  Also, as part of his work on ACEWiki Tobias built  a native java 
> implementation of ACE, making it easier to use without having to 
> install prolog).
> Simon
>     * Tobias Kuhn. /Controlled English for Knowledge Representation/.
>       Doctoral thesis, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration
>       and Information Technology of the University of Zurich, 2010.
>       [PDF
>    (01)

In our experience the problem isn't intelligibility, unless the 
expressions become extraordinarily convoluted.  The problem is that the 
average domain expert naturally _writes_ a different language and takes 
some training to learn to write the controlled language.  Further, I 
would add, the domain expert is usually reluctant to 'waste his/her 
time' doing so.  So the practice is still knowledge engineer working 
with domain expert to create the ontology.  The primary advantage of 
using the CNL as a means of expression for _most of_ the ontology is 
that it allows the domain expert to read, understand and validate that 
part.  I say 'most of', because there are usually technical 
considerations in the formulation of the ontology that the domain expert 
should not be expected to understand -- that is the domain of the 
knowledge engineer.    (02)

[Experts tend to be annoyed when the CNL interpreter complains about 
what they wrote, especially since its diagnostics only usually identify 
the syntactic point(s) at which it became confused, and its guidance for 
what might have been meant is not often helpful.  The worst cases, 
however, are those in which what the expert writes is unambiguously 
parsed by the CNL intepreter, but the interpretation it makes is not at 
all what was intended.  My favorite recent example was:
  The surface must be contained between two planes that are 0.25mm apart.
The CNL interpreter understood the constraint to refer to two distinct 
instances of a class of object described as 'plane that is-apart by 
0.25mm'!  We needed to have the ontology in place to determine that that 
interpretation was not comprehensible (there is no such binary 
relation).  And OBTW, the correct expression of that rule in the CNL was 
'extraordinarily convoluted'.]    (03)

-Ed    (04)

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                Cel: +1 240-672-5800    (05)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (06)

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