Web Theory

Web theories that describe how people arrive at complex computer language by use of semantics. The meaning of linguistic expressions in natural language is found through semantics. Web theories are relevant when computer scientist have to design artificial, complexed computer language (algorithms) to relate to natural language. Formal Semantic Theory (FST) and Discourse Representation Theory (DRT) are two theories used when computer language is considered to convey the meaning of natural language.


Hans Kamp

Formal Semantic Theory is a static adaptation to natural language. Hans Kamp, founder of Discourse Representation Theory explains Formal Semantics (FS) as being very literal and focused on rules. Static semantics being very literal runs into the issue of donkey pronouns. Donkey pronouns have no descriptive context so one cannot relate the antecedent to it. Kamp summarized FS in Elucidations, a University of Chicago podcast: Episode 49. His summary made clear that FS is used to “explain what the meanings of the smallest compartments of a sentence are and explains how those systematically yield the meaning of the sentence” (Teichman, 4:30). He also mentioned that there are difficulties and problems with FS.  Difficulties in this theory arise from conjunctions, verbs, and the roles of plurals in particular sentences. Problems arise because words change over time. Kamp turned his focus to DRT to help combat these issues.

Discourse Representation theory focuses on the influence of sentences rather than words. DRT is the framework that offers precision in expression when transforming context in a conversation. DRT is not static but is dynamic. Where FST was limited in describing complex sentences DRT is not. DRT uses the framework in which the context of the first sentence is in correlation with the next. Kamp makes clear that “context makes sense by being linked to the sentence that comes after it” (Teichman, 18:02). There is an issue with DRT. Different natural languages use different sentence structures to relate information making it difficult to build an artificial computer language. While DRT may not be perfect in this regard it has been extremely critical to computer scientists working to comprise complexed computer language relative to natural language.



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