Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 660.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Sat, 03 May 2003 06:54:14 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
Subject: ontologies for modelling?
Part of my current research involves modelling the personifying capability
of verbs -- in Latin, as it happens, but that should make no difference to
the question posed here. My working hypothesis is that this capability
varies significantly with the ontology of the subject or object of the
verb. I have detailed the following rather rough ontological scheme:
(1) abstractions, such as 'fortune'
(2) insubstantial phenomena, such as 'night' or 'shade'
(3) substantial, nonliving, static entities, such as 'earth' or 'rock'
(4) substantial, nonliving, mobile entities, such as 'river' or 'wind'
(5) substantial, living, non-sentient entities, such as 'grass' or 'tree'
(6) substantial, living, sentient, sub-human entities, such as 'dog' or 'lion'
There are and have been for millennia all manner of ontological schemes.
Does anyone know of any better tuned to the purpose I have in mind yet not
unnecessarily elaborate? For my purpose the great difference between a
river and a wind, for example, hardly matters; in that case, what does
matter is that both are by nature in motion, therefore more life-like than
earth or rocks -- therefore requiring more verbal force to personify. For
practical reasons I do not want to have too many more divisions than the
above scheme exhibits, but at the same time the model is hardly persuasive
unless it represents well a sensitive reading of the text.
Yesterday morning, for example, I was forced most unwillingly to add (2)
because I realized that the potential personification in Ovid, Met 10.90,
"umbra loco venit", "shade came to the place" (where Orpheus was playing
his lyre, with the strong hint of mortality in the word "umbra"), is not
well served by a model that has no category for physical yet insubstantial
Suggestions most welcome.
Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || firstname.lastname@example.org
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