10.2. Semantics, Formal Semantics and Semantic Web Technologies

Semantics, in its most basic understanding, relates to the meaning of a sign such as the meaning of a word within a language. To get an intuitive feeling for what semantics is, consider the fact that it is possible to design and use artificial languages in which there are very precise rules for how 'symbols' can be concatenated and manipulated without saying anything about what the symbols are or what their configurations represent. Games such as tic-tac-toe or John Conway's 'game of life,' provide an example. In the latter, starting with an initial pattern of dots or other symbols on a two-dimensional grid, the rules of the game completely determine how to generate a sequence of successive patterns. This 'language' can be very entertaining and educational, but, without some conventions as to how to interpret the symbols and patterns, it cannot be used to literally communicate anything at all. Semantics is the additional 'whatever it is' that makes communication via language possible. It is also the word used to talk about the discipline or study of such phenomena. Consequently, as cognitive networks are developed that utilize the increasing processing power of devices such as computers, semantics can be used to enable and enhance the interaction of devices within such a cognitive network.

With this basic understanding, a semantics for a language L can be considered to be the basis of a theory of meaning: given any ...

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