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RE: OWL "Sydney Syntax", structured english

From: John McClure <jmcclure@hypergrove.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 10:02:04 -0800
To: "Adrian Walker" <adriandwalker@gmail.com>, <public-owl-dev@w3.org>
Message-ID: <MGEEIEEKKOMOLNHJAHMKOECNEDAA.jmcclure@hypergrove.com>

I am curious about this fascinating approach -- may I ask

(1) if there is no ontology (your words: "no vocabulary or grammar
construction"), why do you care about the RDF which depends completely on
class and property definitions?  If your response is that "the approach
creates classes and properties as a consequence of the text analysis" then
is the resultant ontology ever stored? or re-used? or shared?

(2) is "document exchange" out-of-scope (inapplicable) for this approach,
since there appears to be no contractual reference ontology between
publisher and consumer?

Thanks much for your reply,
  -----Original Message-----
  From: public-owl-dev-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-owl-dev-request@w3.org]On Behalf Of Adrian Walker
  Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 9:00 AM
  To: Pat Hayes; public-owl-dev@w3.org
  Subject: Re: OWL "Sydney Syntax", structured english

  Pat --

  You wrote...

  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.

  Yes, there are many proposals to try to model enough of ordinary English
usage to make writing and running knowledge easier than with formal
notations.  The underlying idea in all of these is to parse with a grammar,
translate automatically to some form of logic, and to execute that.  There
are brave folks who also attempt the reverse translation, from logic to

  As has been pointed out many times, this approach does not seem work
outside of natural language research projects.   If it did work, it would
surely by now be a huge commercial success. It appears to encounter several
roadblocks, including the ones you mention.  The fact that English is a
moving target  does not help.

  There is a different approach.   The approach is lightweight,  and seeks
to go around the deep NL research problems involved, rather than tackling
them head on.  Roughly speaking, the approach is to assign an open
vocabulary, open syntax string to each predicate symbol in the underlying
logic.  If a predicate is n-ary, the corresponding string has n place
holders (or variables) such as "some-person" or "that-time".    There's more
to it than that, but that's the basic idea.

  This allows one to label predicates with strings such as

      so far as is known at this-time there is no evidence to suggest that
this-person is a terrorist

  (Actually the approach starts with the string, and invents an arbitrary
corresponding predicate say,  p33(x,y), for computation)

  This  lightweight approach means that there is no dictionary or grammar
construction -- at least in the usual 'structured English' sense.   It also
means that one can use jargon, government acronyms, 'google' as a verb, and
so on.  Of course, this violates all sorts of expectations about how one
should compute using English syntax and  semantics.   And it's of zero
interest to NL researchers, rightly so.

  But, if one is willing to accept the trade off involved, it actually
seems to be useful!

  As you may know, this is the approach taken for the author- and
user-interface of the Internet Business Logic system [1].  The system is
online, and shared us is free, so folks can check for themselves that they
can write this kind of English to a browser, and then run it.

  BTW, my PHD thesis subject was Chomsky grammars, and like many other folks
I have banged my head dutifully against the 'structured English' wall.
Great research topic.  Very hard to make it work at industrial strength.

  With apologies to Kendal,     -- Adrian

  [1] Internet Business Logic (R)
  Executable open vocabulary English
  Online at www.reengineeringllc.com
                                  Shared use is free
  Adrian Walker
  Phone: USA 860 830 2085
Received on Thursday, 30 November 2006 18:02:15 UTC

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