Dietmar Zaefferer, Ludwig–Maximilians–University Munich


The Place of Linguistic Concepts within a General Ontology of Everyday Life

Investigations into the foundations of a cross–linguistic database and the comparability of languages have led to the assumption that languages are comparable to the extent their functions are comparable. Assuming furthermore that the prime function of language is mind–sharing (shared activation of corresponding mental contents) and that this presupposes shared ontologies or conceptualizations of the world, it seems natural to adopt an ontology–driven or ontolinguistic approach to research on and especially across languages.

The focus of the paper will be on the ontologies that have been developed in the Munich Cross-linguistic Reference Grammar database project (CRG) and the relation that holds between its General Ontology of Everday Life (GOEdL) and its Domain Ontology of Linguistic Phenomena (DOLPhen). GOEdL has been designed to include all the widely used categories for noun–related and verb–related concepts, such as mass, count, collection, and state, activity, achievement, accomplishment, semelfactive, intergressive, respectively

The basic idea of the relation of GOEdL with DOLPhen is that of partial reentrancy: The conceptual contents of the uses of linguistic signs must be assignable to the same categories as the concepts we use for imposing structure on the wealth of extralinguistic phenomena, although of course not every concept has a compact linguistic coding via a lexical or grammatical unit of some language. The perceivable forms of linguistic sign tokens fall under the categories of either actions (oral and signed language) or artefacts (written language) and have therefore also a proper place in the general ontology. It follows that the sign token itself, consisting of both its perceivable form and its inferable content, must be an ontological hybrid. It will be argued that the ontological status of this category, called 'content bearing object' in SUMO, deserves and requires closer scrutiny.

Throughout the presentation of GOEdL and DOLPhen there will be comments on how they relate to SUMO and GOLD, and relative strengths and weaknesses will be discussed.