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Re: [ontolog-forum] LInked Data meme revisited

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 16:36:06 -0500
Message-id: <52A78946.9010908@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Kingsley and Rich,    (01)

The idea of using precise symbols and terminology in science and
in programming languages is useful -- but only for a very narrow
application.  The reason why natural languages are so flexible is
that a finite vocabulary can be adapted to an infinite range of
applications.  That implies that it's impossible (and undesirable)
to force words to be used with fixed and frozen definitions.    (02)

> I don't think it will be feasible in the next decade to find
> a universal dictionary.    (03)

I would revise that point in the following way:    (04)

    It will *never* be possible or desirable to have a fixed dictionary
    of precisely defined word senses for any natural language.  The
    French organized l'Académie française to stop their language from
    evolving.  The net result is that the French adopt their new words
    from the most rapidly evolving of all languages:  English.    (05)

Following is a copy of a note I sent to Ontolog Forum in October.
I strongly recommend Adam K's article.  The title is taken from
a comment by Sue Atkins, a professional lexicographer who devoted
her entire career to defining words and collaborating with linguists,
computational linguists, and computer scientists.    (06)

Many people wish that precise URIs would solve the ambiguity problem.
They could get much better odds by wishing to win the Powerball lottery.    (07)

John    (08)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: "I don't believe in word senses."  Sue Atkins
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 2013 11:44:01 -0400
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: '[ontolog-forum] ' <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>    (09)

The subject line is a quotation by the professional lexicographer
Sue Atkins.  She certainly knows what she's talking about, as her
Wikipedia entry indicates:    (010)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._T._S._Atkins    (011)

Adam Kilgarriff, a computational linguist, used that quotation as
the title of a widely cited paper:    (012)

    http://www.kilgarriff.co.uk/Publications/1997-K-CHum-believe.pdf    (013)

 From the abstract of that paper:    (014)

> Word sense disambiguation assumes word senses. Within the lexicography
> and linguistics literature, they are known to be very slippery entities.
> The paper looks at problems with existing accounts of `word sense' and
> describes the various kinds of ways in which a word's meaning can deviate
> from its core meaning. An analysis is presented in which word senses
> are abstractions from clusters of corpus citations, in accordance with
> current lexicographic practice. The corpus citations, not the word senses,
> are the basic objects in the ontology. The corpus citations will be
> clustered into senses according to the purposes of whoever or whatever
> does the clustering. In the absence of such purposes, word senses do not 
>exist.    (015)

I strongly agree with both Sue A. and Adam K. on those issues.  I won't
say that I completely agree with either or both on everything, but the
points they make are always well informed and well worth considering.
Following are Adam's publications:    (016)

    http://trac.sketchengine.co.uk/wiki/AK/Papers    (017)

Annotations can be useful for many applications.  But in general, they
must always be considered approximations for some specific purpose in
the context for which they were developed.  This fact has been very
well known to translators for centuries.    (018)

John    (019)

PS:  Beryl Atkins adopted the name Sue because her husband couldn't
pronounce 'Beryl'.    (020)

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