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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology vs KR

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 03 Oct 2014 11:56:10 -0400
Message-id: <542EC71A.7090805@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

I was simply observing the way we use many different ways of talking
and working to deal with the many, many aspects of our daily lives.    (02)

>> As soon as you admit that there are multiple representations and
>> tradeoffs, that implies that no single representation of any kind
>> (propositional or whatever) can be fundamental.    (03)

> This sounds like saying that because no theory of physics captures
> the full reality, there is **no** reality that can be approximated
> to a better or worse degree.    (04)

Several points:    (05)

  1. Throughout history (and probably long before), people have been
     using multiple ways of approximating and talking about any and
     every aspect of reality that is relevant to their interests.    (06)

  2. Modern science has more detailed methods of analysis, but there is
     nothing different in principle.  When you analyze the literature
     and artifacts of any civilization -- Egypt, China, India, Greece,
     Mayan, Inuit... -- they have multiple ways of analyzing, talking
     about, and working with *everything* in their experience.    (07)

  3. As I've said many times, I have nothing against the search for
     primitives.  But people from ancient times to the present have
     been searching for them.  And for every answer they find, they
     discover ten times more questions.  There's no end to it.    (08)

> I am not convinced that there are no fundamental elements (semantic
> primitives) - rather, I imagine that there are increasingly better
> approximations, like physical theories, that can be elaborated or
> improved, and, only occasionally, when necessary, deleted from the
> inventory (vide phlogiston).    (09)

I agree with the first three lines, but I would qualify the last two.    (010)

Re phlogiston:  That's the way every field evolves.  Phlogiston was
a very good hypothesis for its time.  It explained many observations,
it supported some useful applications, and it enabled more precise
analysis.  But that analysis raised new questions, which led to
thermodynamics, which raised more questions, which led to statistical
mechanics, which led to quantum mechanics, QED, string theory...    (011)

Re occasionally:  I would replace that word with 'constantly'.  There
is no aspect of anything -- science, engineering, business, finance,
law, politics, arts, life -- where the variations and questions stop.    (012)

Just look at cooking.  You can classify the basic methods of eating
raw, baked, boiled, fried, dried, aged, fermented, chopped, sliced,
diced, ground, pounded, stirred, shaken, beaten, mixed, merged, folded,
flipped, fluffed, etc.  Then look at the many variations in every
culture and cuisine by master chefs, novices, your mommy, and yourself.    (013)

Following is a revised version of a note I sent to another forum.    (014)

______________________________________________________________________    (015)

> The gist is that, in my probably undereducated view, nearly all polysemy
> (in the usual sense of 'all the definitions under the same headword')
> originates in metaphor.    (016)

If you said 'metaphor and metonymy', that would cover the majority
of cases.  There are other terms for related phenomena.  But the fact
that those words come from ancient Greek is a reminder that many very
smart people have been analyzing the phenomena for a very long time.    (017)

> I believe once we have some sort of handle on metaphor and its role in
> the semantics/pragmatics of language use, many of the Kilgarriff et al.
> complaints about 'word senses' will be found to be at least partially
> resolvable. Then again, I'm an optimist.    (018)

I partly agree.  But I'd like to add two newer terms that may help
focus the analysis.    (019)

The first is 'microsense' by Alan Cruse:  It's compatible with the
Atkins-Kilgarriff complaint, and it's related to Wittgenstein's
point that the meaning of a word shifts with the language game.
Instead of saying that word senses don't exist, Cruse would say
the number of microsenses of a word type is open-ended and they
may shift in subtle ways from one use (token) to another.    (020)

The second is 'meaning potential' by Patrick Hanks:  He cites Cruse,
Kilgarriff, Atkins, Wittgenstein, and many others.  He doesn't use
the term 'microsense', but taken together, the two terms provide
a theory (Hanks calls it TNE -- Theory of Norms and Exploitations)
where the meaning potential for each word type, guided by its norms,
determines a cloud of microsenses for the possible exploitations.    (021)

But clouds are rarely static.  Potentials, norms, and exploitations
evolve with changes in culture, knowledge, and fads.  As Peirce said
"symbols grow":  for any word token, the listener's microsense may be
more developed, less developed, or just different from the speaker's.    (022)

For many documents, the author's intended microsense might not be the
ideal "gold standard".  For example, consider a newspaper report about
some new invention, scientific discovery, or political event.    (023)

References below.
______________________________________________________________________    (024)

Cruse, D. Alan (2000) Aspects of the micro-structure of word meanings, 
in Ravin & Leacock (2000) pp. 30-51.    (025)

Cruse, D. Alan (2002) Microsenses, default specificity and the 
semantics-pragmatics boundary, Axiomathes 1, 1-20.    (026)

Hanks, Patrick (2013) Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations, 
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.    (027)

Ravin, Yael, & Claudia Leacock, eds. (2000) Polysemy: Theoretical and 
Computational Approaches, Oxford University Press, Oxford.    (028)

For CSP's observation, google Peirce and "symbols grow".    (029)

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