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Re: Refers Or Denotes?

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2013 16:09:57 -0600
Cc: "public-rdf-comments@w3.org" <public-rdf-comments@w3.org>, public-webid Group <public-webid@w3.org>, "public-philoweb@w3.org" <public-philoweb@w3.org>
Message-Id: <3F633247-1698-4F3C-AB25-D75C4DB28E6C@ihmc.us>
To: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>

On Feb 12, 2013, at 2:58 PM, Henry Story wrote:

> A question that came up on the WebID mailing list. We'd just like some clarification 
> for the use of denotes, as the issue has come up there.
> 
> On 11 Feb 2013, at 21:37, Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@openlinksw.com> wrote:
> 
>> Henry / Andrei,
>> 
>> I current see [ in https://dvcs.w3.org/hg/WebID/raw-file/tip/spec/identity-respec.html ]
>> "A WebID is an HTTP URI which *refers* to an Agent (Person, Organization, Group, Device, etc.)."
>> 
>> But in the context of RDF based Linked Data, the RDF workgroup (after serious thought on this matter) [1] has opted to use what would equate to:
>> 
>> A WebID is an HTTP URI which *denotes* an Agent (Person, Organization, Group, Device, etc.).
>> 
>> The more we stick to definitions and terminology being used across other W3C groups the easier things will be (on the appreciation and adoption front)  for WebID, over the long haul.
> 
>> 
>> Links:
>> 
>> 1. http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-rdf11-concepts-20130115/#resources-and-statements .
>> 2. http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-rdf11-concepts-20130115/ -- latest RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax edition .
> 
> I am not sure why "denotes" is being taken up by the RDF group nowadays, when most philosophy books and logic books tend to use the word "refer".

Not in my experience, but YMMV. 

> Most engineers use the word refer too on a daily basis. 
> 
> In fact it is quite clear from the RDF concepts text that the two words are near synonymous, since what an IRI denotes is called its referent:

Yes. "denotes" is identical in meaning to "refers to". We could also have said "names", but that introduces potential baggage over what counts as a true name, proper names, etc.., so we avoided it deliberately.

> [[
> Any IRI or literal denotes some thing in the universe of discourse. These things are called resources. Anything can be a resource, including physical things, documents, abstract concepts, numbers and strings; the term is synonymous with “entity”. The resource denoted by an IRI is called its referent, 
> ]]
> 
> I am ok with denotes. But we can also use referent according to that text.

The verb form is "refer". "Referent" corresponds to "denotation". 

> So I don't think this is a very settled matter - given furthermore that the above is not yet a final spec. 
> 
> I would like to know why this decision is being made though. Is that just an aesthetic statement, or is there more behind it?

I may be responsible for "denote" in the RDF specs. I used it when writing the 2004 semantics specification. As far as I am concerned it is simply an English word, the most natural one to use in this context. It is not intended to convey anything unusual or to sneak anything in by the back door. So, yes, purely aesthetic.  If you prefer the "refers to"/"referent" language, that is fine with me. They mean the same thing. 

Pat 

> 
> Henry
> 
>> 
>> -- 
>> 
>> Regards,
>> 
>> Kingsley Idehen	
>> Founder & CEO
>> OpenLink Software
>> Company Web: http://www.openlinksw.com
>> Personal Weblog: http://www.openlinksw.com/blog/~kidehen
>> Twitter/Identi.ca handle: @kidehen
>> Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/112399767740508618350/about
>> LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kidehen
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> Social Web Architect
> http://bblfish.net/
> 

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Received on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 22:10:28 GMT

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