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Re: A basis for convergence and closure?

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 11:53:49 -0600
Message-Id: <p05101438b8870c4bdf32@[]>
To: Patrick Stickler <patrick.stickler@nokia.com>
Cc: w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org
>It seems that, from all the past couple of weeks discussions,
>there are the following characteristics on folks wish lists
>(this is a partial recap of some of the desiderada):
>1. A working MT (duh ;-)
>2. Tidy literals
>3. A global/implicit idiom
>4. A local/explicit idiom
>5. Same vocabulary valid for both local and global idioms
>6. Free combination of local and global idioms without conversion
>7. The ability to conduct queries by value
>8. The ability to conduct queries by literal
>9. Datatype URIs denote the entire datatype, as defined by
>    the datatype "owner", not only one of its components

I think I can summarize a way to have all the above with a minimal 
imposition of particular idioms. Consider the following story, which 
I think is very similar to  Patrick's, but expressed slightly 
differently. This is a summary of the 'simple' version of the 'Oh my 
GOD' proposal. To hell with the subtle version.

I. Literal nodes are tidy, and literals denote themselves (ie we can 
treat literals as syntactic labels).

II. rdf:value means that its subject can be represented textually by 
its object (somehow), so
_:s rdf:value "10" .
means that '10' is one possible way to 'write' whatever it is that _:s denotes.

Call that a 'value triple'. It is the basic (weakest) way of linking 
a value to a literal's lexical form.

III. There are two basic ways to say more about the relationship 
between the subject of a value triple and the lexical form of the 

IV.  One is to use a 'tighter' property, ie a subPropertyOf 
rdf:value. So for example (Graham's F case) one could assert
ex:ISO8601 rdf:subPropertyOf rdf:value .
and then
_:s ex:ISO8601 "10" .
would say that the subject node denotes something that could be 
written as '10' *using the conventions associated with that URI*.

This allows for 'multiple' such assertions, where the meaning would 
be that the literal/value pair had to conform to all the named 
constraints, ie a conjunctive reading, as usual. It also allows for 
alternative lexical forms for the same value, as in
_:s xsd:realnumber "10.3" .
_:s ex:germannumber "10,3" .

V. The other is to assert a special datatyping triple along with the 
value triple, using rdf:dtype (or rdfd:type, whatever), giving the 
doublet case:

_:s rdf:value "10" .
_:s rdf:dtype xsd:integer .

This has exactly the same meaning as
_:s xsd:integer "10" .
when xsd:integer is known to be a datatype, and the two forms can be 
used interchangeably or together.

rdf:dtype is always a subPropertyOf rdf:type.

VI. Each of these two cases IV and V requires a special semantic 
condition, and those conditions refer to externally defined datatype 
mappings. In order for an engine to make use of these mappings,  the 
relevant uris must be declared to be datatypes  by an assertion like
xsd:integer rdf:type rdf:Datatype .
xsd:integer rdfs:subPropertyOf rdf:value .

It is acceptable for the graph to entail these assertions, but I 
suggest that we recommend that they be made explicit.

VII. Any graph that entails one of the forms above has the same 
meaning, as far as datatyping is concerned.  There are several ways 
to take advantage of this.

One is to make <dtype> a subPropertyOf <type>, which makes them 
equivalent, so that the datatyping effect of the doublet works for 
all type assertions applied to a datatype. That is the dangerous way 
to do it, since it will break if there are two datatypes with 
overlapping value spaces but incompatible lexical spaces. (The 
symptom of 'breaking' will arise when the datatyping machinery is 
invoked; exactly what happens in the bad case is not fully 
determined. One possibility would be that the datatyping constraint 
machinery will barf. Another is that it will work, but produce 
inconsistent or misleading answers.) Nevertheless, this is a user 
option that may be useful in situations where it is known that no 
such datatype clashes will arise, or to handle legacy RDF code 
written using rdf:type. We note that it is always safe to do this in 
the untyped case, ie where no datatypes have been declared.

Another way is to add a further constraint on rdf:dtype, which allows 
particular kinds of assertion to entail rdf:dtype triples. To do this 
with full generality would require the ability to write RDF rules 
(implications), but the only case that seems to be of widespread 
interest can be captured by one simple 'ranging' rule that could be 
incorporated into the general semantic conditions, viz:

ddd rdf:type rdf:Datatype .
aaa rdf:range ddd .
bbb aaa ccc .
ccc rdfd:type ddd .

With this rule, we can infer the doublet case from an assertion that 
the range of a property is a datatype.  This is 'safe', even though 
it refers to rdf:range, because the rdfs closure rules do not allow 
us to infer that a subclass of a range is a range; so even if the 
ranges overlap, this rule will not produce any unwanted datatyping 

Thats the full story. We don't need to say this idiom is OK and that 
idiom isn't; we can just let people use rdf:value and rdf:dtype 
pretty freely, and things will work out as they ought to, once you 
get used to what they are supposed to mean. rdf:value means 'this 
*can* be written out like this:<literal>', and rdfd:type means 'this 
*must* be written out using the conventions found here:<datatype 
URI>' So rdf:dtype is a constraint on the ways of writing a value, 
which is why it has this odd semantic constraint with rdf:value, 

Oh, I forgot; it also follows that (Dan C., are you reading this?)

VIII. The in-line use of literals, as in
<mary> <age> "10" .
has a fixed meaning which is absolutely unchangeable, which is that 
Mary's age is the *actual literal*, ie the character string '10'.  So 
if you want to write things like that and have them mean Mary is ten, 
then either <age> has to have an odd extension, or else, tough. This 
is where Sergey's idea about XML styles might be a point worth 
making, however, to keep out the noisy townfolk; and as Patrick says, 
you can always interpret <age> to *mean*
(lambda (x y)
    x aged _:s
    _:s rdf:value y  )
and then put range constraints on <aged>.


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Received on Wednesday, 6 February 2002 12:53:19 UTC

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