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Getting back to "terms"...

From: Thomas Baker <thomas.baker@bi.fhg.de>
Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2005 14:17:25 +0100
To: Leonard Will <L.Will@willpowerinfo.co.uk>
Cc: SKOS <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20050206131725.GB1748@Octavius>

On Sat, Feb 05, 2005 at 08:47:08PM +0000, Leonard Will wrote:
> It sounds fine to me, and as nobody has raised serious objections I have 
> added it to the glossary at 
> <http://www.willpowerinfo.co.uk/glossary.htm>. I hope that is OK.

I was noticing that "term" is still defined using "identify".
I had suggested this be changed to "label" and thought you
were agreeing (see digest below).

On further reflection, however, I am still bothered by the
potential for confusion between the notion of a "thesaurus
term" (a lexical or natural-language label, which may
_sometimes_ also be a descriptor identifying a concept) and
an SKOS or Dublin Core "term" (a concept, or unit of thought,
identified with a URI and labelled with natural-language
"labels").

If the Glossary is to be both SKOS-compatible and
thesaurus-world-compatible, this poses a tricky problem,
because I'm not sure "term" itself can be defined generically
enough to encompass both.

However, one step in the right direction could be to avoid
using "term" itself as a synonym for label (as the glossary
currently does).  Instead of equating "term" with "thesaurus
term", one could perhaps define:

    thesaurus term
        word or phrase used as the label for a concept

        Thesaurus terms can be either preferred terms
        or non-preferred terms.
            or
        Thesaurus terms can be either preferred labels or 
        non-preferred labels.

    term
        name, word, or phrase used as an identifier or label for a concept

    concept
        unit of thought

        ...Concepts exist in the mind as abstract entities independent
        of the words or phrases used to express them.

    label
        words or phrases associated with (or "used to
        express"?) an abstract entity

    identifier
        an unambiguous reference to an abstract entity within a given
        context

Tom



------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2005 16:02:24 +0100
From: Thomas Baker <thomas.baker@bi.fhg.de>
------------------------------------------------------------------------

With SKOS-compatibility in mind, one point of possible
confusion catches my eye: the term "term".  In the glossary,
"term" is defined as a "word or phrase used to identify
a concept".

In SKOS, however, a "term" is a member of the SKOS vocabulary
-- it is a "class or property". In SKOS, the class or property
is "identified" with a URI and associated with words or
phrases called "labels".

Saying in the glossary that a term is a "word or phrase used
to _label_ a concept" would seem to be one step closer to
SKOS -- and perhaps even without sacrificing clarity, because
"identity" per se is not otherwise discussed in the glossary
(though the notion of a descriptor as a term which "represents"
a concept could be construed to be about identification) [1].

The ambiguity about "term" is mirrored in the definition of
"mapping", which talks about establishing relationships among
"terms, notions or concepts" across two vocabularies, and
in the definition of "target vocabulary," which is defined
first in terms of "terms" and then in terms of "concepts".
This ambiguity seems confusing.  Could one not say that mapping
is something that is done between concepts -- even if those
concepts are "represented" by descriptors (i.e., terms)?

Finally, the terms "vocabulary" and "language" are not
themselves defined in the glossary.

These problems could perhaps be addressed with careful wording.
However, I'm not sure much can be done to avoid the terminology
clash between a thesaurus "term" (a natural-language label,
which may sometimes also be a descriptor identifying a concept)
and an SKOS "term" (a concept, or unit of thought, identified
with a URI and labelled with natural-language "labels").
Both uses of "term" are fundamental to their respective
communities.  "Term" is perhaps one of those words that is
doomed to have multiple functions -- e.g. even in the title:
a "Glossary of terms...".

Tom

[1] The definition of "vocabulary control" would also need
to replace "identify" with "label".

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2005 20:31:52 +0000
From: Leonard Will <L.Will@willpowerinfo.co.uk>
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tom -

Thanks for these comments. Our British Standards working party will meet 
on 25th January, and we plan to discuss them then.

Personally I would be happy to go along with the use of "label" here; we 
have already used it in the definition of "quasi-synonym" and the note 
under "scope note". To be consistent with SKOS, I suppose we should say 
that non-descriptors are alternative labels for concepts, while 
descriptors are the labels to be used in indexing.

>These problems could perhaps be addressed with careful wording. 
>However, I'm not sure much can be done to avoid the terminology clash 
>between a thesaurus "term" (a natural-language label, which may 
>sometimes also be a descriptor identifying a concept) and an SKOS 
>"term" (a concept, or unit of thought, identified with a URI and 
>labelled with natural-language "labels"). Both uses of "term" are 
>fundamental to their respective communities.  "Term" is perhaps one of 
>those words that is doomed to have multiple functions -- e.g. even in 
>the title: a "Glossary of terms...".

If SKOS uses "term" as a synonym for "concept", I think that that is 
unfortunate. Apart from the fact that the natural-language 
interpretations of the two words are quite different, a controlled 
vocabulary such as that of SKOS terminology should ideally not contain 
two words for the same thing. (Or are you saying that in SKOS a concept 
only becomes a "term" once it is
identified with a URI and labelled with natural-language "labels"?)

We may have to accept a certain looseness of meaning, though, because 
even in the thesaurus community it is conventional to talk of broader, 
narrower and related terms (BT, NT, RT) whereas it would really be more 
correct to speak about broader, narrower and related concepts.

I'll make any agreed changes to the glossary after our meeting on the 
25th.

Regards

Leonard

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 06:00:24 +0100
From: Thomas Baker <thomas.baker@bi.fhg.de>
------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Sun, Jan 16, 2005 at 08:31:52PM +0000, Leonard Will wrote:
> If SKOS uses "term" as a synonym for "concept", I think that that is 
> unfortunate. Apart from the fact that the natural-language 
> interpretations of the two words are quite different, a controlled 
> vocabulary such as that of SKOS terminology should ideally not contain 
> two words for the same thing. (Or are you saying that in SKOS a concept 
> only becomes a "term" once it is
> identified with a URI and labelled with natural-language "labels"?)

Not quite...  I am not talking about the thesaurus concepts
that are described using the SKOS Core vocabulary but the
"terms" of the SKOS Core vocabulary itself -- terms such as
Collection [1] or even Concept [2].  As in: "The base namespace
for all terms in the SKOS Core vocabulary is..." and "Each term
(i.e.  class or property) in the SKOS Core vocabulary..." [3].

> We may have to accept a certain looseness of meaning, though, because 
> even in the thesaurus community it is conventional to talk of broader, 
> narrower and related terms (BT, NT, RT) whereas it would really be more 
> correct to speak about broader, narrower and related concepts.

I agree.

[1] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/core#Collection
[2] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/core#Concept
[3] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/core/spec/2004-12-17.html


-- 
Dr. Thomas Baker                        Thomas.Baker@izb.fraunhofer.de
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Personal email: thbaker79@alumni.amherst.edu
Received on Sunday, 6 February 2005 13:15:20 GMT

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