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Re: literals as resources / completion of ACTION 2001-07-06 (dependencies)

From: Sergey Melnik <melnik@db.stanford.edu>
Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001 10:15:22 -0700
Message-ID: <3B45F22A.D044147E@db.stanford.edu>
To: fmanola@mitre.org
CC: rdf core <w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org>
I agree with Frank that "out of scope" is a weak argument. This is a
crack at clarifying the role of literals as a part of the formal
model. Below I tried to make the relationship with M&S explicit
whenever possible, and to identify the new issues arising from this
proposal. Notation A x B corresponds to the Cartesian product.

In particular, I'd like to see whether the clarifications summarized
below break something in M&S that is not already broken, or have
subtle troubles that I failed to identify.

Formal model:

1. There is a set of Unicode strings called Unicode*.

2. There is a set called Entities = Unicode* x Unicode*, i.e. an
entity is a pair of Unicode strings. The first Unicode string of the
pair is called "namespace prefix".

3. There is a subset of Entities called Resources. Each resource is a
pair (URI prefix, local part). The namespace prefix of a resource is a
URI. Resources correspond to the set of QNames as defined in
http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml-names/. URI prefix may be empty, in which
case a resource corresponds to an unqualified name.

4. There is a set called Literals = {"urn:data:literal:"} x Unicode*.

5. There is a subset of Resources called Properties.

6. There is a set called Triples = Entities x Entities x Entities.

7. There is a subset of Triples set called Statements = Resources x
Properties x Literals.

8. There is a subset of Resources called Namespaces. A namespace is
a resource with an empty local name, i.e. (URI prefix, "").

9. A subset of Statements is called an RDF Level 1-model.
   A subset of Entities   is called an RDF Level 2-model.


The motivation behind the above definitions is to preserve the intent
captured in M&S. In particular, the sets Statemets, Resources, and
Literals are presented as clarifications of the corresponding
definitions in M&S.

ad 2) Two entities (a,b) and (c,d) are identical iff a=c and b=d as
defined by canonical equivalence in Unicode standard.

ad 3,4) Notice that Resources and Literals are overlapping. There are
Literals that are not Resources, and there are Resources that are not
Literals. In the graph representation and XML syntax defined in M&S,
Literals are abbreviated using quoted strings. Literals may be
implemented in applications in distinct ways.

ad 6) Not all entities can be serialized in current M&S syntax (only

Impact on applications:

Current RDF applications can be declared as RDF Level 1. Level 1 has
restrictions wrt to valid models that can be processed. Since only
Level 1 models can be serialized in M&S RDF/XML, no unexpected
breakages can creep in by receiving a Level 2 model from another

RDF applications Level 2 drop several restrictions of Level 1. In
particular, literals may be used as subjects (and properties?). A more
flexible syntax is needed to be able to serialize any subset of
entities (Level 2 model).

Since namespaces are explicit, resource ("urn:isbn:","0123456789") is
different from ("urn:","isbn:0123456789"). See comment on syntax

Impact on M&S syntax:

Using of namespaces makes each resource to correspond to a
QName. Generation of resources and namespaces could be done in amended
M&S syntax as follows. (1) The parser records all explicit namespace
declarations as namespace prefixes during parsing. Additionally,
prefix "" is added to the recorded prefixes. (2) Each generated
resource URI (as referred to in M&S) is assigned the most specific
(longest) namespace prefix of those recorded in (1).

Impact on xml:lang:

xml:lang could be resolved either (1) by ignoring xml:lang found in the
syntax altogether or, (2) by generating URI prefixes like
"urn:data:lang:en:" etc.  This would cause
("urn:data:literal:", "foo") != ("urn:data:lang:en:", "foo") !=
("urn:data:lang:fr:", "foo")
However, APIs may provide access methods that ignore the differences.

Anonymous resources and reification:

These are separate issues that are orthogonal to the issue of


RDF 2.0 may consider using namespaces as a means of
specifying primitive data types.

Frank Manola wrote:
> Just to continue the thought I was expressing when the audio cut off:
> I think what a number of people are concerned about is the possibility
> of spending a lot of discussion time trying to thrash out the
> ramifications of deciding the question of literals as resources one way
> or the other.  I'd like to suggest that anyone who wants to should
> simply write up what they would like to see the M&S say about this as a
> proposed change to the spec (having, possibly with the help of other
> interested members, worked the details out to some level of
> completeness).  I, for one, wouldn't rigidly rule a proposal along these
> lines that seemed to make sense out of order on some artificial "out of
> scope" grounds;  but a lot of committee discussion time without this
> sort of ground work having been done ahead of time does seem like a
> waste of crucial bandwidth.
> --Frank
> --
> Frank Manola                   The MITRE Corporation
> 202 Burlington Road, MS A345   Bedford, MA 01730-1420
> mailto:fmanola@mitre.org       voice: 781-271-8147   FAX: 781-271-8752
Received on Friday, 6 July 2001 12:49:17 UTC

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