Re: Order & meaning in a proposition

From: Dave Rolsky <>
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 2004 16:14:35 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 6 Apr 2004, Dawn M. Wolthuis wrote:

> You are suggesting that narrowing down language to some subset of what has
> been conveyed before we store the data is better. It might be better for
> some aspects of communication, but does not bring with it all of the
> richness of the language that is being modeled. What is conveyed in a
> proposition depends on both what is said and who is interpreting it and
> everything that hearer brings to the equation. The more we have the
> proposition stray from the original, the less it will have the same impact
> on the reader. Take this one step further and if someone writes up a
> document and we parse it apart, make a bunch of propositions from it, and
> generally fragment the document to the point where we cannot get that
> document back in the same way it came in, then we are apt to be conveying a
> different set of information than the original document conveyed.

I think you're mixing two things up. We can model the proposition that the sentence represents (Person X is a host who seated Persons Y and Z), _or_ we can model the sentence itself (you know, like diagramming a sentence).

If we were to construct a schema in which to store the sentence itself, it would no doubt include the explicit order of the words in that sentence, and thus could be reconstructed in a form in which all of its original implications are preserved.

If, OTOH, we simply model the preposition as it stands, then we do lose the ordering, because there is nothing in the preposition to indicate that it is relevant.

Of course, this is why we would probably ask for multiple propositions in the field we are modelling before constructing our schema, rather than relying on one single sentence.

> But that lack of precision carries with it information too. Even if we do
> not "trap" the aspects of the language that are not precise, if we do our
> best to pass back the original propositions, in particular keeping the
> ordering of nouns in tact, then even if the software/dbms don't understand
> the subtleties, at least when we pass back the information to the reader we
> have not lost such meaning just because we decided to explode the words into
> an unordered structure.

Again, here you are talking about modelling the sentence itself, not the generic proposition it represents.



House Absolute Consulting
Received on Tue Apr 06 2004 - 23:14:35 CEST

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