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Entity references, and terrorism

On Language Log, in a post titled "Copy-editing terrorism", Mark Lieberman finds more than 20 (lexically different) translations for the name of the organization claiming responsibility for yesterday's terrible bombings in London (as picked from newsstories). He says:

The ontological puritans of the Semantic Web movement, confronted with this evidence of human nature, will be muttering "you see -- I told you so..." Those interested in practical techniques for analysis of natural language will find in this case an especially pure and concentrated example of the problem of tracking entity references across documents and languages.

Food for thought. In fact, the underlying problem (i.e., naming things in an unambiguous way) is central to the Semantic Web. I recall a paper by Guha, titled "Semantic Negotiation: Co-identifying objects across data sources"; this paper, I thought, was particularly good and interesting. Guha introduces the idea of discriminant descriptions (a generalization of keys) and presents a scheme that allows two agents to negotiate a shared reference to an object.

Of course, we must not forget the Web Proper Names proposal either.

So much of the Semantic Web will depend on names and how we resolve them (eerily this is starting to sound related to what I believe Alan Kay has said: "Any problem in computer science can be solved by adding another level of indirection").

Posted by ora at 08:39


I'd like to abuse another one of those old quotes -- "now you have two problems"!

It's reminiscent of the still-not-quite-solved "what are we referring to" issue on the SW.

I've always been surprised that TAP hasn't had more of an impact on the SW as a whole, actually. Fortunately there was a bit more activity earlier in the year.

Posted by: Rich at July 12, 2005 06:34 PM