In Ontological Semantics Sergei Nirenburg and Victor Raskin introduce a
comprehensive approach to the treatment of text meaning by computer.
Arguing that being able to use meaning is crucial to the success of natural
language processing (NLP) applications, they depart from the ad hoc
approach to meaning taken by much of the NLP community and propose
theory-based semantic methods. Ontological semantics, an integrated complex
of theories, methodologies, descriptions, and implementations, attempts to
systematize ideas about both semantic description as representation and
manipulation of meaning by computer programs. It is built on already
coordinated "microtheories" covering such diverse areas as specific
language phenomena, processing heuristics, and implementation system
architecture rather than on isolated components requiring future integration.
Ontological semantics is constantly evolving, driven by the need to make
meaning manipulation tasks such as text analysis and text generation work.
Nirenburg and Raskin have therefore developed a set of heterogeneous
methods suited to a particular task and coordinated at the level of
knowledge acquisition and runtime system architecture implementations, a
methodology that also allows for a variable level of automation in all its
Nirenburg and Raskin first discuss ontological semantics in relation to
other fields, including cognitive science and the AI paradigm, the
philosophy of science, linguistic semantics and the philosophy of language,
computational lexical semantics, and studies in formal ontology. They then
describe the content of ontological semantics, discussing text-meaning
representation, static knowledge sources (including the ontology, the fact
repository, and the lexicon), the processes involved in text analysis, and
the acquisition of static knowledge.
Sergei Nirenburg is Professor of Computer Science and Electrical
Engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Victor Raskin
is Professor of English and Linguistics at Purdue University.