Limitations of a Dictionary Approach


In general, an approach to knowledge using dictionary definitions would be too narrow, too circular, too incestuous. The definitions are too short to convey useful information, particularly in technical areas.

Let’s take an example – “erroneous”.

Erroneous is defined as wrong; incorrect.

Here are the definitions for wrong; incorrect.

    Definition: not correct or true
    Definition: unsuitable or undesirable
    Definition: mistaken
    Definition: in a bad or abnormal condition; amiss
    Definition: unjust, dishonest, or immoral

    Definition: not in accordance with fact; wrong
    Definition: not in accordance with particular standards or rules

Many of the definitions do not apply:

“There is something wrong with the car” does not mean “the car is erroneous”.

The car may have been assembled erroneously, but that leads to a faulty car, not an erroneous one.

So what do we do? Use the definitions that fit, ignore the others.

Or we define what can be erroneous – a process or chain of reasoning, which contains an error.

(of a message, process or chain of reasoning) containing an error

We will assume a definition constructed of multiple words is more likely to be robust.


Popular Posts