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Type: Article
Published: 2012-03-30
Page range: 1–56
Abstract views: 172
PDF downloaded: 0

Nomenclature, terminology and language

Nomenclature terminology reference extra-linguistic reference intra-linguistic reference natural languages formal languages artificial languages metalanguages ontologies temporality and language demarcation


It is this paper’s intention to provide one perspective on some of the debates, theories and proposals relating to meaning, formalization, rigor (which I argue is not necessarily identical to precision), precision, reference and naming as they relate to nomenclature and terminology. I argue that resorting to formal and machine languages in an attempt to “fix” or “stabilize” the semantics of natural languages is not always a successful or desirable strategy. A careful examination of the practical relationship(s) between reference and semantics, the process of the genesis of meaning, helps one to understand how the logical premises for the pursuit of certain kinds of mechanical formalization strategies are faulty. An attentive use of existing natural languages, in conjunction with parsimonious and concise practices in the areas of nomenclature and terminology, can probably achieve reasonable levels of precision. It also may help avoid excessive proliferation of overlapping, partially redundant, metalanguages, knowledge representations, ontologies, etc., that all attempt to redefine standards for nomenclature and taxonomy, without necessarily confronting the problems (which lie at the foundation of many issues in the philosophy at language) at the root of the alleged “fuzziness” of many concepts generated with the use of natural languages. A relatively short set of practical proposals concludes the essay.