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

To: Rich Cooper <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Edward Barkmeyer <edward.barkmeyer@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2011 12:58:28 -0500
Message-id: <4D791144.7000803@xxxxxxxx>
Rich Cooper wrote:
> I have yet to see a domain expert working with a knowledge engineer who
> produces quality results.  The few good examples I have seen are where the
> knowledge engineer IS a domain expert.  
> Remember that in every domain, there is no Ulysses.  Every expert has an
> experience that is unique, personal, and not very communicable in language.
> The domain expert doesn't have the "aha" reaction of suddenly seeing a
> simplification that the knowledge expert does.  
> So I disagree with this long held, but factually incorrect, assumption.  
>       (01)

I'm not going to debate this at length.  The experience of 40 years of 
information management says that this is the only way you get good 
computational models, including 'ontologies'.  Yes, the quality is 
highly variable.  It is a matter of the joint effectiveness of the 
individuals involved.  I see very few good models made by individuals.  
I have seen a lot of bad computational models made by domain experts 
trying to learn my trade, and a lot of bad domain models made by expert 
modelers who fancy themselves domain experts after conversation with 
people in the trade.     (02)

There is a discipline here, and yes, it is rare to get good knowledge 
engineers coupled with experts who can express themselves.  But if you 
want an ontology for bridge construction, you will be waiting a long 
time for a civil engineer to become an effective knowledge engineer, or 
a knowledge engineer to learn enough civil engineering to do it well 
without the active participation of experienced civil engineers.  Like 
any other engineering team, they have to learn how to work together.    (03)

As I said before, I treasure the learning experience I got from the 
scientist who said to me:  "I don't know how much of nuclear magnetic 
resonance theory I can teach you in an hour."    (04)

-Ed    (05)

"You have to learn from the mistakes of others.  You won't live long 
enough to make them all yourself."
  -- ?    (06)

> -Rich
> Sincerely,
> Rich Cooper
> EnglishLogicKernel.com
> Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
> 9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ed Barkmeyer
> Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:58 AM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Using controlled natural languages for ontology
> 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
> <http://attempto.ifi.uzh.ch/site/pubs/papers/doctoral_thesis_kuhn.pdf>|BibTe
> X
> <http://attempto.ifi.uzh.ch/site/pubs/papers/bibtex/doctoral_thesis_kuhn.bib
>> ]
> 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.
> [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'.]
> -Ed
>       (07)

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    (08)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (09)

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