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RE: What is a concept?

From: Bernard Vatant <bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 12:25:05 +0100
To: "Stella Dextre Clarke" <sdclarke@lukehouse.demon.co.uk>
Cc: <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GOEIKOOAMJONEFCANOKCAEBGDJAA.bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>

... following up somehow my previous message


> Re 'traditional thesauri', one of the most widely misunderstood things
> is the nature of the fundamental unit. One has to study ISO 2788 (=BS
> 5723) carefully to realise that the fundamental unit is in fact the
> concept.

That's good news. But it figures ... you have to "read carefully" to understand it.

> For practical reasons, concepts are represented by terms, but
> these are really only labels for the underlying concepts.

Does that fit in the topic vs subject distinction?

> We are hoping
> that this will be much more obvious in the revised British Standard,
> which is just about to be issued as a Draft for Public Comment. We then
> hope that people building schemas and software to handle thesauri will
> use models closer to what you are developing for SKOS, in which concept
> is king.

The 'lord of the page' strikes again :))

> By the way, I wouldn't say 'term = concept + label'. In the thesaurus
> context the equation is a bit more complicated, like
> "concept = preferred term + any non-preferred terms + any scope note +
> any clues given by relationships to broader terms and others"
> This 'equation' does not conform to conventional mathematics - the '='
> means 'is defined by' and the '+' is fuzzy.  It all seems to rely on
> human interpretation - the weakness and the strength of the thesaurus
> model.

All that goes in the right member of the 'equation' I would call 'topic and its
and the left member is the 'subject'. Now, how well the subject is represented is indeed
all in human interpretation.

See definitions of 'subject' at

I'm happy to see a convergence here.

Bernard Vatant
Senior Consultant
Knowledge Engineering
Mondeca - www.mondeca.com
Received on Wednesday, 17 March 2004 06:25:13 UTC

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