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Re: [ontolog-forum] LInked Data meme revisited

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 18:05:09 -0800
Message-id: <BC3A382D592040868F81930D60FBDA65@Gateway>

John and Kingsley,


My comments are below,




Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2


Kingsley and Rich,


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.



> I don't think it will be feasible in the next decade to find

> a universal dictionary.


I would revise that point in the following way:


    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.


Some long time ago, the German Kaiser of that age ordered that the spelling of written German words be revised to make the language more like the phonics of spoken German.  It was very successfully done.  When I took my two years of German in undergrad, and did my German language testing in grad school, I found German extremely easy to spell because of that regularity. 


So it CAN be done, just not by most countries with their own languages, because German provides one such example.  But the Kaiser didn’t try to prohibit new words, like the French did, so German is still expanding.  But all languages borrow words from other languages, so far as I am aware. 


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.


My suggestion to Kingsley was inspired by his web site, which recommends URIs for designating any word.  But I find that the median citizen only uses short words, averaging around five letters per word, for the great majority of language use. 


URIs are normally very long, perhaps twenty to fifty letters, and that makes them different from said median citizen’s words.  By putting up a dictionary URI that contains only the word senses that apply to the context of the URI’s subject matter, and not to other contexts, that can be simplified, and the user can spec the base URI once, at the beginning of his document, but thereafter use the normal five letter word.  To locate the word’s definition, the document software would only have to concatenate the five letter words (etc) to the base URI. 


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




Agreed.  The real solution will be NOT to disambiguate, but to package all the alternative interpretations in a succinct way.  One reason language is so compact is because we evolved by making words shorter and shorter, more and more capable of conveying warnings and dangerous situations so we could intercommunicate. 


Ambiguities, IMHO, are personal, individualized interpretations which the speaker and the listener compare to each other’s sensed interpretation of the other’s mental constructs.  It just MIGHT be better to NOT disambiguate so ruthlessly on interpretations, and TO ONLY insist on disambiguation in those more limited cases.  For example, when the ambiguity is too confusing to complete a conversation between them. 




-------- 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>


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:




Adam Kilgarriff, a computational linguist, used that quotation as

the title of a widely cited paper:




 From the abstract of that paper:


> 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.


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:




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.




PS:  Beryl Atkins adopted the name Sue because her husband couldn't

pronounce 'Beryl'.



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