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Re: [ontolog-forum] Discussion re reasoning about Time and State with RE

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:19:58 -0400
Message-id: <53FB622E.60008@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Phil, David, Ed, Leo, Rich, Joel, et all,    (01)

> I would propose ... an artificial language, such as Tala, based
> on the syntax of a natural language such as English, to represent
> ontological information in general. Use other formal languages
> and notations to represent ontological information as appropriate
> in various domains.    (02)

In the early '70s -- around the same time that Ed Lowry introduced me
to his version of PROSE at IBM -- Fred Thompson presented a lecture
at IBM on REL (Rapidly Extensible English).  I liked both approaches.
I also adapted an NL parser I designed to process controlled NLs.    (03)

Several people at IBM (including Ted Codd and his group) adopted my
parser to build some interesting systems.  Some of them, such as Codd's
Rendezvous and a Japanese front-end to Pascal, stopped at the demo
stage.   Others built useful tools that were used as a front-end to
some internal IBM tools.  None of them became IBM products.    (04)

> I am a strong advocate of CNLs, as most of the long-term Ontolog
> readers know, but I also want the system to be usable to support
> existing computer systems    (05)

> Tala is *not* a Controlled Natural Language... Tala is an artificial
> language that supports unconstrained English syntax, to represent
> declarative and procedural concepts in unconstrained semantic domains.    (06)

The range of notations called CNLs is rather broad. Any fixed boundary
is likely to be violated by the next innovation.  My recommendation
is to embed a formally defined CNL within a very tolerant framework
that tries to interpret anything thrown at it -- and switch to a
dialog with menus for confirmation and clarification.    (07)

> This supports a point made earlier in this thread by Ed and John,
> that no single model (or language) is adequate for representing
> all ontological information.    (08)

I agree.  But where do we go from here?    (09)

Five years ago, I presented the following tutorial at a Semantic
Technology Conference in San Francisco:    (010)

    Controlled Natural Languages For Semantic Systems
    A Roadmap of Directions to Explore    (011)

Unfortunately, this is still a good survey of the approaches --
because nothing more successful has appeared.    (012)

Slides 22 to 26 summarize Adrian Walker's version of Executable English.
Adrian is another of my colleagues at IBM, who couldn't make an earlier
version of his system into an IBM product.    (013)

Slides 30 to 32 summarize the REL and ASK systems developed by
Fred Thompson, his wife Bożena, and their students at Cal Tech.    (014)

Fred earned a PhD in logic from Tarski.  Bożena had done research
on MT for the Georgetown Automatic Translator (GAT), which later
became SYSTRAN and Babelfish (which are still available).    (015)

By the way, Fred had deeper insights than Bill Gates, who missed
the boat on the WWW and the smartphone.  Following is a prediction
he made in 1992:    (016)

> The next decade will see the telephone, personal computer, work
> station, and television set combined into a single, ubiquitous
> instrument – the telephone-computer.    (017)

I largely agree with his summary of the issues:    (018)

> Current literature often refers to a person's mental awareness of
> the world as one's "cognitive model."  But it is not a single model.
> It is a large family of interrelated, comparable models - the many
> alternatives that we visualize and choose among. The logician would
> refer to these as the model-theoretic counterpart of our sublanguage
> ... The linguistic formulation, we feel, grasps much more clearly
> the characteristics of our ongoing cognitive processes.    (019)

Fred not only predicted the telephone-computer, he and his group
implemented a prototype on a Sun workstation in 400,000 lines of C.
The link in my slides is no longer active, so I posted a copy of
his article at http://www.jfsowa.com/misc/thomps92.htm .  A note
at Caltech:  http://www.caltech.edu/content/frederick-b-thompson-0    (020)

Questions:  Why haven't these great ideas become the foundation
for the Semantic Web?  Should they be considered?  If not,
why not?  If so, how?    (021)

John    (022)

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