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Re: Formal semantics notes

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 19:06:55 +0100
Message-ID: <4E286ABF.3080700@ninebynine.org>
To: James Cheney <jcheney@inf.ed.ac.uk>
CC: W3C provenance WG <public-prov-wg@w3.org>

I took a look at the semantics paper you mentioned 

You mention the relationship to programming language semantics ... I see a 
correspondence to *denotational* programming language semantiucs, but less ure 
about axiomatic and/or operational approaches there.

The notion of "Interpretation" you use seems very similar to that used in model 
theory (e.g. for FOL and DLs), but then I think you use it in quite a different 
way.  But I'm not sure if that's driven specifically by the preservation 
scenario you address there.  I need to think on that.

The big uncertainty, for me, is what it is that populates the "Information 
content space".  For denotational programming language semantics (as I 
understand them) you have a space of lambda expressions, and I think there is a 
reasonable notion there of reduction and equivalence-determination - at least 
for those that correspond to computable functions (cf. Dana Scott work from the 
1970s?).  But when your domain of discourse is expanded to things that exist in 
the wider world, or descriptions of them, I'm not sure what would populate this 

Model theory takes an approach of using the interpretation to map terms in some 
language to concepts in an unspecified domain of discourse, and identifying 
those interpretations (i.e. "models") that satisfy relations necessary for 
intended meanings of the language to hold.  But this assumes as a starting point 
a notion of a language with wffs and variables, which is not the same as the 
bag-of-bits "object state space" suggested by your paper.  I don't know if such 
an approach would help with the preservation scenario you address.

Ultimately, I think we need to have a (clearer?) sense of what kinds of 
questions we want any formal semantics to help us address.

Just some fodder for discussion... :)


James Cheney wrote:
> Hi,
> Here:
> http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/jcheney/pilformalsemantics.pdf
> are some slides I plan to use to structure today's brief discussion 
> about the "formal semantics" (optional) deliverable during today's meeting.
> --James
Received on Thursday, 21 July 2011 21:40:47 UTC

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