Re: CG: Re: Top level ontology

JFDelannoy (
Tue, 2 Dec 1997 14:59:43 -0400

> >I am concerned about the excessive emphasis on hierarchy, i.e. the
> >relations among unary predicates, in discussions of ontology. I think
> >the lack of mastery of non-unary predicates is more of an obstacle to
> >use of the ontologies.
> >For example, what about "x is between y and z" in its various
> >sentences?
> That is indeed an important issue. In the vocabularies of natural languages
> (which are the starting points for all of our ontologies, even the most
> highly formalized ones), the words that map to monadic predicates tend
> to dominate -- nouns and adjectives. But the words that present the
> most complexity are the verbs, with prepositions and conjunctions
> creating quite a few problems as well.

Are there extensive discussions of examples in some accessible article ?

> However, the relational words also fall into hierarchies. In particular,
> all of the thematic roles (or case relations) associated with verbs can
> be classified as subtypes of Participant, further subdivided along the
> lines of Aristotle's four "causes" (or "aitiai"), and then further
> subdivided according to finer and finer distinctions for various
> kinds of actions described by the verbs.

But there may not be agreement on all, for matters of, yes, philosophy.

I had a discussion with Doug Skuce some time ago as to whether a person is
the agent (me) or the patient (him) of thinking.
I don't know how he is being thought about that question now :-)

> And in response to Sergei, I don't see any clear distinction between
> commonsense categories as expressed in natural languages and the highly
> formalized categories of science, especially mathematics. All of the
> scientific terms (including number, space, time, etc.) are refinements
> and extensions of the commonsense terms. And the commonsense terms
> tend to be much more stable over thousands of years, while the scientific
> terms tend to shift their meanings with every passing fad.

Scientific terminology uses common terms, but metaphorically:
- for particles: spin, charm, colour,
- for numerical analysis: convolution, matrix inversion, fixed point
- in astrophysics: black hole
- in linguistics: tree, trace, stem

The notion of stability cuts both ways: the commonsense vocabulary is more
stable across century (diachronically), but at all point it is often
polysemous, or has interindividual and intergroup fuzziness (how open
should a door be to be called ajar? How big is a big book ? How many
grains of sand make a sandpile? and other sorites).

How do conceptual graphs address continuous notions? Stick to
language usage ? Then, which usage, if it varies?
If one acknowledges variety in language usage, a formalization done from
usage should say explicitly which usage it is based on.

> John Sowa

JF Delannoy

JF Delannoy
RES International, Ottawa