'word sense'

From: K.Ahmad@mcs.surrey.ac.uk
Date: Wed, 3 May 1995 18:52:59 +0000
Subject: 'word sense'

As they say on radio phone-ins: this is my first time.

The word-sense debate - Ted Dunning's riot!- is an interesting one in that
some correspondents have used special language words, like 'stock', and at
other times the word that has been used is quite frequently used both in
the specialist texts and in general language texts, like the word 'time'.

I think the disambiguation problem is also an opportunity especially for
those involved in renewing the stock of words in natural languages. (Lord)
Ernest Rutherford talked about the divisible 'atom': historical notes in
OED suggest that the word was used generally to indicate indivisibility.
Molecular biologists and bio-chemists are respected members of the
scientific community, but it has taken scientists over a century to talk
about life in terms of inanimate particles.  There were a number of
convulsions (of the academic nature) when the term 'animal chemistry' was
introduced during the last century together with the notion of 'vital
force' - the force that creates vitality.  The term 'chemistry' is extremly
ambiguous because in its original Arabic derivation 'kimya' refers to magic
- the magical way of transforming base metals into noble metals. People
dont come to lexicographers and complain that they cannot understand the
following near real-world sentences:

        Fascism has lost momentum
        He was a real force for change
        Clinton and Gingrich's chemistries do not agree.

Of course, time is ambiguous even when used in sciences: space-time
continuum; real-time control; time-of-flight neutron spectrometry;
time-domain convolution.  Add the philosophical/epistemological conundrums
to the word no wonder Ted Dunning has found scores of meaning and 40
sentences without any problem.  I have no conclusion to offer for the above
except to say that if you look up contentious/specialist words in general
langauge dictionaries, which offer a snap shot of language, you will find