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RE: vision for controlled vocabulary use and management

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 09:19:33 -0500 (EST)
To: Bernard Vatant <bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>
Cc: Ron Davies <ron@rondavies.be>, public-esw-thes@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.55.0411100822050.2728@homer.w3.org>

Salut Bernard,

I have a big interest in this sort of question. I actually think that the
first approach you outline in your message has a fair bit of value, if people
recognise that the concept is not just the preferred term, but rather that it
was a term that seemed the most appropriate to identify the concept at a
given time. If systems that just used the preferred term were workable in
monolingual situations we could do with definitions, use notes, and so forth.

Even in english there are usually many shades of meaning and many
associations with a given term. Anyone who has worked in translation knows
that there is not normally a clean match from one word to another, except in
the most banal circumstances. ("Banana" can often cover "Plantain" in
Australia, where they are rare. And is associated there with groups of
people, sports, and many things besides).

A lot depends on the use case. In general, if I develop a thesaurus in one
language (say, Australian English) and then try to explain the concepts in a
different one (say, Argentine Spanish) I will figure out terms that work -
the "shoe-horning" effect.

If I want to do something mulitlingual then I am more inclined than the
monoliguists to provide some commentary and example, since guessing what
someone thought was a universal understanding of even the simplest of english
words often turns out to be wrong. (Anyone interested in a long and pointless
debate about what "not" actually means? :-) And I think this leads to better
monolingual thesauri, too.

There are of course cases where concepts just don't match - your example of
legal information is one that has been recurring in my path recently.
Fortunately, it is possible to describe in rough terms the concept of a 'not
proven' verdict that exists in Scottish Law, and relate it the verdicts that
are available in Australian law, or Italian law. In some cases there won't be
an obvious preferred term in another language, and we either pick the best of
a bad bunch, or just provide a number of alternatives (it depends on the use



On Fri, 5 Nov 2004, Bernard Vatant wrote:

>Addressing more or less what you write below:
>"If you have look at any multilingual thesaurus, you soon run into situations where the
>underlying conceptual structures appear to be different in two different languages because
>the words that they use are not coherent. Is one conceptual structure right and the other
>wrong? How do we tell? Most often, you have to adopt one or other of the conceptual
>structures, and then try desperately to make the terms from the other language fit and
>hope that your poor users are not utterly confused. The thesaurus standards are full of
>examples of rather unsatisfactory ways you can try to get around this problem."
>I've made a suggestion a week ago on SWBPD Vocbulary Management Task Force list
Received on Wednesday, 10 November 2004 14:19:33 UTC

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