Re: Hayes' scrutiny of Top 40

John F. Sowa (
Sun, 3 May 1998 10:17:32 -0400

Perhaps a bit of history might help to clarify or refocus this discusion:

1. During 1996 and 1997, there have been four two-day meetings on ontology,
which have been held as "ad hoc" working sessions attached to the
NCITS T2 meeting (which is working towards ANSI and ISO standards
for conceptual schema modeling facilities (CSMF)). The ANSI people
have recognized the importance of logic as a precise formalism for
stating axioms and definitions and ontology as the study of the content
to be represented in logic. They are primarily oriented towards
practical, commercial applications, but there is a core of people
(which includes me and the T2 chairman Tony Sarris) who appreciate
the practical value of theory.

2. The ad hoc ontology meetings, which have been attended by about half
of the people on the above cc list plus another 20 or so others,
have included some very interesting discussions which have led to
some serious work in trying to reconcile previously independent
projects. Ed Hovy and Fritz Lehmann, in particular, have done
an important piece of work in aligning many of the nodes of Cyc,
WordNet and Pangloss. Ed and I did some collaboration in merging
our lists of thematic roles (or case relations) to form a version
that we have been using for labeling the participants of verbs.
This work has been promising, but much more has to be done, and it
should be done with public scrutiny by the best available talent in
linguistics, logic, philosophy, lexicography, AI, and any discipline
that has concepts to define that might be related to this work (which
includes essentially everything).

3. In January of this year, we held a two-day planning meeting at CSLI
for a meeting of experts in these fields to be hosted by the
Klaus Tschira Foundation in Heidelberg. The major accomplishment
at that meeting was to assemble a list of about 40 people we would like
to invite, which we narrowed down to a primary list and a list of
standbys. The cc list above is a result of this process.

4. We also discussed how we might proceed in such a meeting, and I don't
believe that discussion was as thorough or as definitive as the list
of people. The most definitive part was to plan several presentations
or position papers for the first day. Another suggestion was to have
a list of concepts that could serve as a test bed for analysis, but
the exact question of how that testbed could, would, or should be
used was not clarified by the end of the two-day meeting. Piek Vossen
volunteered to contribute about 40 concepts that were common to all
the European languages that went into EuroWordNet. I will leave it
to Piek to explain that further.

The people who have been attending the four two-day ontology meetings over
the past two years have felt that they were making progress towards aligning
independently developed ontologies. But there are still some very important
methodological issues that remain to be analyzed further and be sujected to
theoretical scrutiny. Equally important is the detailed work on the large
ontologies that have been asssembled so far, such as Cyc, WordNet, and EDR.
Representatives from all these groups have attended one or more of the
meetings, and most of them believe that further progress is both possible
and highly desirable.

This is a brief summary of my impressions of what has happened. Perhaps
some of the others who have attended the earlier meetings can add a few
words about their views of what has happened and how we might proceed.

John Sowa