Natural languages are easy to learn by infants, they can express any thought that any adult might ever conceive, and they accommodate the limitations of human breathing rates and short-term memory. The first property implies a finite vocabulary, the second implies infinite extensibility, and the third implies a small upper bound on the length of phrases. Together, they imply that most words in a natural language will have an open-ended number of senses — ambiguity is inevitable. Peirce and Wittgenstein are two philosophers who understood that vagueness and ambiguity are not defects in language, but essential properties that enable it to accommodate anything that people need to say. In analyzing the ambiguities, Wittgenstein developed his theory of language games, which allow words to have different senses in different contexts, applications, or modes of use. Recent developments in lexical semantics, which are remarkably compatible with the views of Peirce and Wittgenstein, are based on the recognition that words have an open-ended number of dynamically changing and context-dependent microsenses. The resulting flexibility enables natural languages to adapt to any possible subject from any perspective for any humanly conceivable purpose. To achieve a comparable level of flexibility with formal ontologies, this paper proposes an organization with a dynamically evolving collection of formal theories, systematic mappings to formal concept types and informal lexicons of natural language terms, and a modularity that allows independent distributed development and extension of all resources, formal and informal.
IOS Press, Inc.
6751 Tepper Drive
Clifton, VA 20124
Tel.: +1 703 830 6300
Fax: +1 703 830 2300 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Corporate matters and books only) IOS Press c/o Accucoms US, Inc.
For North America Sales and Customer Service
West Point Commons
Lansdale PA 19446
Tel.: +1 866 855 8967
Fax: +1 215 660 5042 email@example.com