[plt-scheme] Re: [PRL] Denotation: barbarous neologism required

From: will at ccs.neu.edu (will at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Thu Nov 12 19:59:21 EST 2009

John Clements wrote:
> Suppose A represents B.  Do we say that A is the representation of B  
> or that B is the representation of A?

The former.

> Concrete example: let the table represent the street, and my hand  
> represent the car.  Do we say that my hand is the representation of  
> the car, or that the car is the representation of my hand?

The former.

> Suppose A denotes B.  Do we say that A is the denotation of B or that  
> B is the denotation of A?

The latter.

> Bizarrely, it appears that most people in the languages community use  
> the latter.

Not bizarre at all.  The usage of noun-ized verbs is idiosyncratic.
Try going through your examples with "possesses"/"possessor" in
place of "represents"/"representation".  Then do the same with

> That is: suppose that "(lambda (x) x)" denotes the  
> platonic identity function.  I believe we say that the program is the  
> denotation of the function, rather than that the function is the  
> denotation of the program.

Absurd.  Perhaps someone does indeed say that, but I'd say they're
moby confused.  For the most part, "denotes" means about the same
thing as "names" or "indicates".  The word "denotation" means the
thing named or indicated.

> This irritates me. I claim we need a new word for "the thing that A  
> denotes".
> Is there already a standard term for this?

Yes: the denotation of A.


Posted on the users mailing list.