Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Bernstein at Harvard" -- Segue to Probability, Semantic Amiguity, etc.

My prior post was about Watson, a tool for accessing multiple and usually heterogeneous online ontologies, but never once mentioned the word "probability." However, the recognition of uncertainty in the real world is sometimes needed within description logics, the underpinning of ontologies like OWL. Because of its importance, I'll take up the topic of uncertain domain knowledge in my next post.

For the present, however, I've embed here the 4 1/2 minute video "Bernstein at Harvard," which includes many of the terms - e.g., probability, meaning, semantic ambiguity, meta, language, and knowledge - that I'll use in my upcoming rant. Hope you find this segue as relevant as I do.

Note: Semantic ambiguity arises when a word or concept has an inherently diffuse meaning based on widespread or informal usage. This is often the case, for example, with idiomatic expressions whose definitions are rarely or never well-defined, and are presented in the context of a larger argument that invites a conclusion.

For example, “You could do with a new automobile. How about a test drive?” The clause “You could do with” presents a statement with such wide possible interpretation as to be essentially meaningless. Lexical ambiguity is contrasted with semantic ambiguity. The former represents a choice between a finite number of known and meaningful context-dependent interpretations. The latter represents a choice between any number of possible interpretations, none of which may have a standard agreed-upon meaning. This form of ambiguity is closely related to vagueness.