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   Re: [xml-dev] There is a meaning, but it's not in the data alone

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1/23/02 11:45:25 AM, Gavin Thomas Nicol <gtn@rbii.com> wrote:

>On Wednesday 23 January 2002 06:22 am, Pete Kirkham wrote:
>> For any application, there is a hypothetical domain model, which is
>> a representation of all knowledge of that domain.  It is unlikely to
>> exist in any complete realised form, but only in the heads of the
>> experts in that domain.
>The "domain model" as you put it, is roughly equivalent to a 
>vocabulary with an associated set of semantics. So long as you agree 
>on the terms, you can communicate, and that is the whole point.
>The terms *intrinsically* do *not* have any meaning. Only in the 
>context of the interpreter dot hey have meaning, and only if the 
>knowledge is shared and agreed upon will useful communication occur.

Bingo.  *All* communication requires a set of shared assumptions on the part of both the sender(s) 
and the receiver(s).  As others have pointed out, in the case of machine-to-machine communications, 
these assumptions are likely to be embedded in the sending code and the receiving code.  It is not 
meaningful (hehe) to talk about "meaning" independent of those shared assumptions (in fact, 
according to the principle of the Intentional Fallacy, it's not even possible to talk about *the* 
meaning of a message, only a set of possible meanings with (unless you're absolutely hardcore PoMo) 
varying degrees of plausibility, for some definition of "plausibility").  It is therefore an 
oxymoron to speak of a message that completely encodes its own meaning independent of any entity 
outside the message itself.  As the dictionary entry Len cited makes clear, the pre-image of a 
semantic mapping includes an environment, which cannot be contained in the message itself, unless 
the message somehow encodes all of reality in itself, which is not practical and IMHO not possible.

We went all over this in my high school freshman English class, 30 years ago this fall (our teacher 
was quite a follower of S.I. Hayakawa).  Exercises included attempts to assign a meaning to the 
words "glubdrub" and "grobjom"; the set of potential meanings included "stick this hairpin into 
that electrical socket."

What does the following bit of XML *mean*?

<m t="Q">
  <s n="G">
    <t t="G" p="0.25"/>
    <t t="H" p="0.025"/>
    <t t="R" p="0.025"/>
    <t t="S" p="0.7"/>
  <s n="H">
    <t t="G" p="0.25"/>
    <t t="H" p="0.05"/>
    <t t="R" p="0.025"/>
    <t t="S" p="0.675"/>
  <s n="R">
    <t t="G" p="0.35"/>
    <t t="H" p="0.025"/>
    <t t="R" p="0.025"/>
    <t t="S" p="0.65"/>
  <s n="S">
    <t t="G" p="0.1"/>
    <t t="H" p="0.005"/>
    <t t="R" p="0.005"/>
    <t t="S" p="0.89"/>

1) Do the single-letter element names, attribute names, and attribute values stand for anything?
  If so, what?
1a) Are we assuming too much by calling the characters in those positions "letters"?
2) What type, if any, are the values of the "p" attributes?
2a) If it's some sort of numeric type, is it meaningful to talk about adding them?
2b) If so, does the fact that all the p's in each t in each s, if interpreted as numeric, add up to 
the same value say anything about the meaning of the document?
3) Are there any proper names other than mine, real or fictional, that you'd put into a search 
request if you were expecting it to turn up this document?
4) Would the meaning of this document depend on when it was written?
5) Does the use of whitespace in this document convey any meaning?
6) Are any constructs in this document linked or otherwise related to each other?
6) What, if anything, would you expect a "generic processor" to do with this document?


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