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RE: OWL "Sydney Syntax", structured english

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 17:42:50 -0600
Message-Id: <p06230912c193c92413c8@[]>
To: "John McClure" <jmcclure@hypergrove.com>
Cc: "Kaarel Kaljurand" <kaljurand@gmail.com>, "Dan Connolly" <connolly@w3.org>, "Anne Cregan" <annec@cse.unsw.edu.au>, <public-owl-dev@w3.org>

>  >>FOAF,
>>>constantly made an exemplar by W3, is a bit of a mess in this regard IMHO.
>>IMO, any attempt to avoid 'mess' in your sense will be doomed to
>>failure, and is best not even attempted. It has been tried before,
>>and it has always failed. And in any case there is absolutely no need
>>to even attempt it. Nothing turns on the noun/verb distinction.
>This is pretty harsh.

Sorry. Imagine it said in a weary, resigned tone of voice, muffled 
under a damp towel.

>Can you please cite where this has "been tried before"?

Several programming languages were based on the idea that making them 
English-like would make it easier for non-geeks to write programs. 
COBOL was the first, almost 40 years ago now. The general consensus 
is that writing the code is about equally hard and requires training 
in any case, but the longwindedness makes these languages a pain to 
actually use. There have been several proposals for English-like 
syntaxes for logic, see for example John Sowa's 'structured English'. 
Again, one can make these look quite convincing by a deft choice of 
basic vocabulary, but they always become incomprehensible when one 
uses a slightly divergent one. The problem is that when it reads 
*almost* like English, any non-English constructions - nouns in place 
of verbs, the wrong preposition, etc., - become very intrusive and 
awkward. Some object-oriented programing notations claim similar 
transparency, and there have been proposals for English-y syntaxes 
for KRep notations, such as various frame-based systems which allow 
things like (Every Person who owns a donkey beats the donkey of 
self). I confess to not having citations ready for this, but such 
systems were developed at U. Texas, for example.



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Received on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 23:43:05 UTC

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