Generic Ontology of Linguistic Classification

  • Rainer Osswald
Part of the Trends in Logic book series (TREN, volume 17)


We introduce observational logic as a framework for linguistic classification. Observational theories consist of universally quantified monadic conditionals, where antecedent and consequent are built by finite conjunction and disjunction from primitive monadic predicates plus two predicates expressing existence and non-existence.

Adopting a Quinean conception of ontology, we require any model representing the “generic ontology” of an observational theory to satisfy the condition that indiscernibles are identical. Moreover, such a model should be “as general as possible” with respect to the theory, that is, if two predicates have identical extensions in the model, they should be equivalent in the theory. We investigate whether the latter condition enforces the model to be “as large as possible” provided that indiscernibles are identical. In general, the answer is negative. It turns out that the most problematic elements of the universe are those which neither are finitely specifiable nor can be approximated by finitely specifiable ones. The concluding discussion indicates how generic ontology can help to clarify the nature of linguistic entities. We briefly address issues such as partiality and cognitive adequacy.


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  1. 1.
    Cf. [Oss02] for more details on the logic of systemic networks.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    A subset S of a partially ordered set is directed if it is nonempty and every two elements of S have an upper bound in S; a partially ordered set is directed complete if every directed subset has a supremum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rainer Osswald
    • 1
  1. 1.Praktische Informatik VIIInformatikzentrum FernUniversität Gesamthochschule in HagenHagenGermany

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