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Re: [ontolog-forum] Run, put, and set

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 03:59:28 -0400
Message-id: <4DE49FE0.9000607@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 5/30/2011 10:35 PM, Rich Cooper wrote:
> What interesting diversity of meanings for such a small kernel of English
> verbs!  But as a set of primitives, those would relate to basic concepts
> only so distinguishable as to separate the classes of words to include,
> from the example, run, put and set.    (01)

I agree that the 645 senses of 'run' have some vague central core that
is different from whatever central core is common to the 400+ senses
of 'put' or the 200+ senses of 'set'.    (02)

However, that commonality is not something that anyone has been
able to express in any kind of definition, either in a natural
language or some artificial language.    (03)

I would pose that as a challenge to anybody who claims that such
definitions would be suitable primitives.  For starters, just take
any reasonable dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster Collegiate.  For
the verb 'run' as an intransitive verb, M-W has 15 major senses,
each with 1 to 4 subsenses; as a transitive verb, it has another
15 major senses, each with 1 to 5 subsenses; and it has more senses
with various prepositions.    (04)

That's much less than 645 senses, but it's enough to pose a challenge:
state what is common to all those senses in English.  Check whether
other English speakers can guess what word your proposed definition
is supposed to define.  Then do the same for 'put' and 'set'.    (05)

> So perhaps the actual conclusion you could have reached is that the
> primitive set is very, very small and there are lots of elaborations
> and refinements of each kernel concept.    (06)

To demonstrate that such words could be considered useful primitives
that are suitable for defining other terms, you would have to    (07)

  1. Start by stating a definition of each so-called primitive,
     as in the above challenge.    (08)

  2. Then go to Longman's dictionary and select some definitions
     that use those words to define other words.    (09)

  3. Substitute the definitions you stated for step #1 into the
     definitions for step #2.  Make whatever syntactic adjustments
     may be needed to make the definitions readable.    (010)

  4. Give the definitions derived by the above steps to somebody
     else and ask whether they can guess what word is being defined.    (011)

If you can demonstrate success with just English definitions and
human interpreters, then try to formalize the definitions in logic
and check whether the result can be used for computer reasoning.    (012)

Good luck,    (013)

John    (014)

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