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Style as a Choice of
Blending Principles
Joseph Goguen
Fox Harrell
A New Approach to Style
• Hypothesis: style = blending principles
• Developed for language, but ok for other media
• Intended applications:
- Computational multimedia narrative
- User-interface design
- Gaming
- Maybe database queries & integration
What is Style?
Style is not just statistics!
Style is fundamental to meaning:
- not just way to present “content”
- not separate from “content”
- not surface, deep inside meaning
Probably cannot be fully formalized, but can
be better understood by using formalization
Levels of Language
• Discourse
• Sentence
• Phrase (including metaphor)
• Word
Our system treats differently for pragmatic
reasons, but distinction is not strict & not
Indeed, model building is not reality discovery.
Supporting Theories
• Narrative
• Metaphor & Blending (from cognitive
linguistics & cognitive semantics)
• Algebraic Semiotics & Structural Blending
• Algebraic semantics (CS theory of abstract
data types)
• A bit of category theory
Labov Narrative Structure
• Narrative of personal experience, William Labov,
refined by Charlotte Linde:
• Optional orientation (time, place, characters, etc.)
• Sequence of narrative clauses describe events
• Narrative presupposition says occur in same order
as given
• Narrative clauses interwoven with evaluative
material, provide interpretation, evaluation
• Optional closing: gives summary or moral
Labov Structure in BNF
<Narr> ::= <Open> (<Cls> <Eval>*)* [<Coda>]
<Open> ::= ((<Abs> + <Ornt>) <Eval>*)*
• Can use to structure story generation
• Complex narratives, flashbacks &c, still have Labov
• Can also use other format specifications
Algebraic Semiotics
• Semiotic spaces have sorts, constants,
operations, axioms, constants, with partial
ordering on each, and a primary sort
• Semiotic morphisms are partial mappings
between semiotic spaces
• “Algebraic semiotics” is ‘brand name’: not
aligned with contemporary semiotics,
though influenced by Peirce & Saussure
Algebraic Semiotics
• Builds on algebraic semantics (as in abstract
data type theory)
• Incorporates insights from cognitive
linguistics and conceptual blending
• Algebraic definition of blending: lax colimit
in order enriched category (3/2 colimit in
3/2 category)
Simple Conceptual Blending
Blending Optimality Principles
•Integration: Scenario in blend is integrated scene
•Web: Tight connections of blend & inputs (e.g., event in input
construed as corresponding event in blend)
•Unpacking: Easy to reconstruct inputs & connections from blend
•Topology: Elements in blend should participate in same kinds of
relations as counterparts in input spaces
•Good Reasoning: Elements blend should have meaning.
•Metonymic Tightening: Relationships between elements from
same input space should be as close as possible in blend.
Formal Optimality Principles
Type Casting
Axiom Preservation
Operation Preservation
Ordering Relation Preservation
(for priorities & subsorts)
Houseboat Blend
Boathouse Space
(one of 48 blends)
For “resident/boat” to “live-in” “house,” type of “boat”
must be cast from “Object” to “Person.”
Conceptual Blending Algorithm
• Three node types are (left to right):
relation nodes, sort nodes, constant nodes.
• Vertical edges connect nodes from different input spaces.
• Horizontal edges from relation nodes to sort nodes indicate the
sorts that the relation is defined on.
• Horizontal edges from sort nodes to constant nodes indicate the
sorts of constants.
Structural Blending
• For generative media, need to handle
structure, not just concepts about structure
(e.g., syntax and discourse)
• “Templates” act as constructors (which are
Active Poetry System
Griot is active (generative) poetry system.
In interactive mode, selection takes user input.
The Girl with Skin of Haints and Seraphs
- spaces programmed by Fox Harrell
Every night she wakes covered with snowqueen or cherub sweat.
Melaninated, soul thoughts taunted her as a
It was no laughing matter
for the white or original-lady,
until she awakens and begins a privilege or
pride day anew.
(every night she wakes covered with snow-queen
or cherub sweat)
(melaninated, soul thoughts taunted her as a
(it was no laughing matter)
(for the white or original-lady)
(until she awakens and begins a privilege or
pride day anew)
the beginning was quiet and simple - save for the ignorance contradiction
she dropped from her momma as skin angels caused hate-making, love making
wakeful moments shimmied with desire
a spectral tone pervaded
harp mathematics no longer concerned her when she was elderly
pale-skinned young-lady thoughts taunted her as a teen
the young lady would prevail
evil privilege spawns and devours evil smugness
and she is filled with passion
she could cry
serious times were here
they would call her charcoal-girl, dusky-girl!
The tormented european felt pain and entitlement in her mind)
the spectral tone pervaded
she could cry
until she awakens and begins a hate love day anew
until she awakens and begins a love hate day anew
Disoptimality Principles
“I am withered, impervious, like a swan of felt
navigating a water of beginning and ashes.”
“cheap winter hats of fate”
These violate at least three of the optimality principles
and require casting to quite remote types
Future Work
• Computational narrative (improvisational &
interactive multimedia narrative)
• Richer media
• More blending principles (more specific)
• Gaming
• Use values in semiotic spaces for blending
• Reasonably comprehensive notion of style
• But formalization is modeling & implementation
tool, not privileged as ‘real’
• Limited sense of history can reside in domains
• One sense of evolution is iterative refinement of
optimality principles
• Not interested in autonomy: not a goal to
explicitly encode personal & social history
• Adequate for reductionist notions of style, but
recognizes situated nature of style
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