RE: Unambiguous Language WAS: MEME: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

From: Patrick McCuller (
Date: Tue Jun 19 2001 - 02:16:54 MDT

> I think (modified) English would be sufficient for unambiguous
> communication.
> Instead of saying "commoner", though, I'd have to say
> "commoner(MWOCD,ed7,2)"
> which could be short for Merriam-Webster's Online Collegiate Dictionary,
> seventh edition (made that up), definition 2, which we would all have to
> memorize as meaning: "a student (as at Oxford) who pays for his own board".
> If we had larger memories to keep track of more precise definitions, this
> might work. However, jokes might not seem as funny.
> Suppose Theodore is an Oxford student and he asks: "What runs through the
> forest and puts everyone to sleep?", Bill, his classmate, replies "I don't
> know, Theodore, what does run through the forest and put everyone to
> sleep?". Thodore replies "A Wild Boar(MWOCD,ed7,1) cf.Bore(MWOCD,ed3,2),
> of course!". See, it's just not as funny and it would leave Bill bored.

        Very funny! Still, even that might not suffice. There are many dictionaries,
and all do not agree. Because definitions contain words, and we relate to each
of those words, we would all have to have exactly the same understandings of
all English words.

        Even if we all agreed on the the book definitions of all words, and even if
we were willing to spend huge amounts of processing power cross-referencing
words (in many varied and fluidly changing dictionaries) we would still have a
problem presenting ideas without the possibility of misinterpretation.

        We each as individuals attach our own feelings, ideas, and experiences to our
perceptions of words.

        Language as we use it is fluid. Dictionaries do not contain every relevant
piece of information, and they cannot tell us how others will interpret a
given word.

        Given that we cannot control how others will interpret a word, a perfectly
unambiguous languange may be impossible.

Patrick McCuller

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