Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pretentious, moi?

XKCD: too good to be lost as an ephemeron
Years ago, I had a car sticker which read:
"Another Family for Situation Semantics"
I was delighted that no-one had any idea what this pretentious sentiment actually meant. Now I can reveal the extremely tedious truth.

Situation semantics was a non-standard logic developed  by Jon Barwise and John Perry in the early 1980s at Stanford University. It was an attempt to create a better semantics for natural language than the more conventional Montague Semantics, by making the model-elements contextually-restricted 'situations' rather than whole worlds. I wrote it up as part of my Ph.D work but it was not central, as it did not lend itself to computational inference. In any event, world-wide interest subsequently slumped.

And families? In best West Coast tradition, their book was written in an irritatingly folksy style, with plenty of examples using 'family situations'.

In retrospect, I cringe.