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Philoshophy and Applicability of Formal Languages - Minutes from the Workshop
Geneva, 15 September 2001

Mr. Meisingset opened the workshop explaining the background for the workshop and expressed the belief that the workshop will become valuable for future work on language standardization in the new Study Group 17, even if the workshop is not constrained to this scope. He stressed that the speeches will not present Study Group 10 results, activities and history. Each speaker is expected to express his individual views and this may not comply with that of their employer or role in ITU-T.

Mr. Meisingset presented in his first speech an extreme nominalistic view on language and theory of knowledge, where phenomena instances and classes are data in some observer, and descriptions are stated as denotation mappings between name data and phenomenon data. From this, he claims that most specifications are not models or descriptions.

Mr. Braek presented his views on methodology and descriptions and provided a methodological framework identifying functionality, deployment and implementation as three main areas to be covered by the ITU-T languages. Within each area he made a distinction between object and property descriptions and showed how the ITU-T languages and UML covered the six areas thus identified. It was argued that it is meaningful to talk about specification and design within each of the areas, using the same languages for both aspects. In his view the distinction between specification and design is not a language issue, but rather a methodology issue. It was mentioned in the discussion that the presented framework could provide a basis for integration of the ITU-T languages.

Mr. Gerome introduced semiotics and interpretation of messages according to semiotic theory. He argued for the use of Peirce's notion of triad (process, context and causes) to convey meaning of messages.

Mr. Meisingset presented in his second speech three aspects of language use: denotations, instantiation and implementation.

The first part presented a proposal for a generic specification language as an attribute grammar, where algorithmic behavior is attached to the data nodes. The superior nodes of the syntax tree provide the context of the subordinate nodes. Hence, in this attachment grammar, the superior nodes must remain in the final statements, while the leaf nodes need not be instantiated.

In the second part he presented a compiler inspired 7 level transformation between two media. He used this framework to identify the scope of SG 10 languages.

Mr. Jervis provided proposals for clear distinctions between specification, design and implementation languages. He explained how MSC did not necessarily comply to these terms. He pointed out that even if ITU-T languages have formal semantics, that the mappings from terms to concepts were well-defined, different users still have different real world semantics, that they believed the terms mapped to different things and domains in the real world.

Mr. Sarma presented a realistic world view of science, as opposed to idealism, which he considered the only other consistent but useless alternative. He also compared software engineering with science, pointing at similarities and differences. In the following discussion, he argued that the classes do not exist in the real world, ref. the War of Universals.

Mr. Meisingset provided a short presentation of Popper's Theory of science by falsification as Proof theory. He presented Theory of science as a theory on the truth of statements about classes, while theory of knowledge is concerned with truth of statements about individuals.

Mr. Subramanian presented various strategies to software development and identified mathematical theories which could support each strategy. He likened mathematics with specification of artefacts, ref. H. A. Simon (1981). He uses category theory to study combination and development of functions, e.g. for telecommunication protocols.

Mr. Sarma presented in his last speech his views on the customer base and how we could improve the support and extension of this base.

In the following discussions, it was noted that several of the speeches could contribute to developing a framework for Language co-ordination. This is asked for in the Language co-ordination project, being initiated by SG 17.

Also, SG 17 calls for a Framework and Scope Workshop Saturday 2 March 2002, and the speakers and others are asked to provide contributions both to the Workshop and the
SG 17 meeting 27 February - 8 March.

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