XML Schema Datatypes in RDF

Author: Jeremy Carroll

26 November 2002



This is the author's opinion intended as input to the W3C RDF Core and XML Schema Working Groups. It is proposed as input to either the RDF Concepts and Abstract Syntax WD [RDF Concepts] or a joint Note from the RDF Core and XML Schema Working Groups.


In [RDF Concepts], the central aspects of datatyping in RDF are outlined. One of those is that actual datatypes are not provided as part of RDF, but the use of XML Schema Datatypes is encouraged.

The [XML Schema Datatypes], while presenting a reusable datatype framework, has XML developers as its primary audience.

Within the RDF abstract syntax, equality is a key concept.

This is to ensure that RDF is adequately formalizable, to be the foundations of the Semantic Web.

Within [XML Schema Datatypes], there is some lack of clarity as to when two datatypes have values in common. There are also some minor issues to do with whitespace that present themselves to the non-XML developer. A further problem is that the datatypes QName, ENTITY and ENTITIES use the document context within the lexical-to-value mapping.

Another aspect of the difference in concerns between XML Schema datatypes and RDF datatyping is that XML is primarily about syntactic forms, while RDF is primarily about semantic values. The XML requirements have required XML Schema datatypes to be clearer about the lexical forms of the datatypes than about the values denoted.

In RDF, each datatype, when viewed as an RDF Schema class, is treated as the set of values in the value space. Hence, the rdfs:subClassOf relationship holds between two datatypes if and only if their value spaces are related by set inclusion.

A further problem, particulate pertinent to the Web Ontology Language (OWL), (see the example in the [OWL Guide]) is to do with how to refer to user defined XML Schema datatypes, using a URI.

This document has the following aims:


The number 1 occurs in almost all of the numeric simple types in XML Schema.

With each of the definitions of the value space of the primitive types (float, decimal, double) there is no indication that anything other than the number that we learnt when we were in kindergarden is intended. Each derived numeric type has a value space that is a subset of that of decimal. Thus, except for nonPositiveInteger and negativeInteger, the very same number 1, belongs to the value space.

This example shows that it is a meaningful question as to which built-in types have members in common. Moreover, examples from OWL can easily be constructed whose consistency depends on being able to answer questions as to whether a particular value is or is not equal to some other particular value.

We note that the lexical-form "1" participates in the lexical space of many of the non-numeric types. However, in none of these does it map to a number, and hence from the perspective of values, is distinct.

Summary of Results

There is a set of numeric datatypes whose value spaces can be put in a subclass hierarchy. There is a set of datatypes whose values are strings, which also can be put in a subclass hierarchy. The three datatypes which have lists of strings as their values also form a hierarchy. The two datatypes base64Binary and hexBinary share the same value space; as do the two datatypes QName and NOTATION. All of these spaces and all the other value spaces for each of the built-in datatypes are pairwise disjoint. Moreover, by adding the three singleton sets { 1 }, { 0 }, and { -1 } to the subclass hierarchies, the pictures reveal all the relevant subclass and intersection relationships.

In the five figures below two built-in datatypes

have equal value spaces
If and only if they are in the same box.
have value spaces in a subset relationship
If and only if their is a line leading upwards from one to the other (possibly via intermediate datatypes).
have members in common
If and only if they have a common subset in the diagram.

In other words the five diagrams completely capture the subset relationships which hold between the value spaces, or equivalently, the rdfs:subClassOf relationships between the corresponding rdfs:Class-es.

Figure 1: The value space subset hierarchy of the numeric XSD types

Figure 2: The value space subset hierarchy of the string valued XSD types

Figure 3: XSD types with values being lists of strings

Figure 4: XSD types with values being sequences of binary octets

Figure 5: XSD types with values being tuples {namespace_name, local_part}

We demonstrate the correctness of the numeric hierarchy, and the string hierarchy.

The Value Spaces of Types Derived By Restriction

A type derived by restriction, by definition has a "value space and/or its lexical space" constrained "to a subset of its base type".

We read this as implying that [D] a type derived by restriction always has a value space which is a subset of that of its base type.

Numeric types

A numeric type is either derived from decimal, or is float or double. All the decimal values are rational numbers. The values of float and double are some rational numbers and the five special values positive and negative zero, positive and negative infinity and not-a-number.


Some of the numeric types have finite cardinality some are countably infinite.

We observe that [K] a countably infinite set cannot be a subset of a finite one.

Proper subsets

[P] For each of the subset relationships indicated in figure 1, the inverse relationship does not hold. (i.e. the relationships are proper).. To see this consider the members: 0.5 of decimal, of float, and of double; -1 of integer; 1000000000000000000000000 of integer and of nonNegativeInteger; 0 of nonPositiveInteger and of nonNegativeInteger; 10000000000 of long and unsignedLong; 1000000 of int and of unsignedInt; 1000 of short and of unsignedShort; -2 of negativeInteger and of byte; 2 of positiveInteger and of byte and of unsignedByte; and the smallest positive value, other than positive zero, in the value space of double.

One, Zero and Minus One

[1] The value 1 is in the value space of byte, unsignedByte and positiveInteger. It is not in the value space of nonPositiveInteger.

[0] The value 0 is in the value space of byte, unsignedByte, nonPositiveInteger. It is not in the value space of positiveInteger or negativeInteger.

[-1] The value -1 is in the value space of byte, negativeInteger. It is not in the value space of nonNegativeInteger.

Unsigned types

[U] The value spaces of unsignedByte, unsignedShort, unsignedInt are subset of the value spaces of short, int, and long, respectively. This can be seen by comparing the maxInclusive and minInclusive facets in each pair of datatypes.

[V] The value spaces of unsignedByte, unsignedShort, unsignedInt, unsignedLong are not subsets of the value spaces of byte, short, int, and long, respectively. This can be seen by considering the maxInclusive value in the unsigned value spaces in each pair of datatypes.

Floating Point Numbers

[F] The value space of float is a subset of that of double. The definitions of the two value spaces are word for word identical except that the word float is replaced by the word double and the constants 24, -149 and 104 are replaced by the constants 53, -1075 and 970. Moreover 24 < 53;    -1075 < -149 and 104 < 970.

[X] The value spaces of both int and unsignedInt are subsets of that of double. Seen by setting e and m (from the definition of the value space of double) to be respectively 0 and an arbitrary integer value from the value space of int or unsignedInt.

[Y] The value spaces of both short and unsignedShort is a subset of that of float. Seen by setting e and m (from the definition of the value space of float) to be respectively 0 and an arbitrary integer value from the value space of short or unsignedShort.

[Z] There are long, unsignedLong, int and unsignedInt values that are not in the value space of double, double, float and float, respectively. Specifically, 9223372036854775807 and 2147483647.

[I] The special value positive infinity is in the value space of float, but not of decimal.

Table of Proofs

Putting the previous results together we have the following table, where the red cells show that the row datatype is not a subset of the column datatype, and green cells show that the row datatype is a subset of the column datatype. Each cell is hyperlinked to the proof.

Typesdecimal positiveInteger short unsignedByte
integer double byte {1}
nonPositiveInteger float unsignedLong {-1}
negativeInteger long unsignedInt {0}
nonNegativeInteger int unsignedShort

Numeric Transitively Closed Table

[T] We can apply transitive closure rules to the subset relationship. The following rules are applied repeatedly.

The resulting table is:

Typesdecimal positiveInteger short unsignedByte
integer double byte {1}
nonPositiveInteger float unsignedLong {-1}
negativeInteger long unsignedInt {0}
nonNegativeInteger int unsignedShort

String Valued Datatypes

As discussed below: this document takes the whiteSpace facet to be a constraint on the lexical space of datatypes; the lexical-to-value mapping of normalizedString to be the identity, and #xA to be excluded from its lexical space; and anyURI to have string values and exclude certain patterns of whitespace.

With these assumptions, the string valued types are those derived from string and anyURI. Moreover a combination of the pattern and whiteSpace facets are used to constrain the lexical space. Since the lexical-to-value mapping is the identity, every constraint on the lexical space is an identical constraint on the value space.

Looking at the whiteSpace facet, we find:

Since string, normalizedString and token are not further constrained, these three value spaces are supersets of all the other string value spaces, moreover token is a subset of the other two, and normalizedString a subset of string.

By comparing the pattern (or by comparing the relevant productions in [XML]) we observe that the value space of Name is a subset of that of NMTOKEN. Thus, (considering also the general result on derived datatypes), we have a decreasing sequence of value spaces: string, normalizedString, token, NMTOKEN, Name, NCName. This a strictly monotonic decreasing sequence; strictness follows from the strings "&#xD;", "&#x20", "a&#x20b", "2", "a:b" (with character references expanded).

The types derived by restriction from NCName are ID, IDREF, ENTITY. In all three cases there are no facets used in the restriction, and so the four value spaces are identical.

language is derived from token. However, the pattern does not permit white space, and matches the NCName production. Thus the value space of language is a subset of that of that of NCName. Moreover the string "é" shows that this is a proper subset.

Every NCName can be converted into a relative URI by the %-escaping algorithm, hence the value space of NCName is a subset of that of anyURI. However the Name "a:" is unchanged by %-escaping, and is not a URI.

When combined with transitivity considerations, these observations are equivalent to the earlier diagram of the string value types.

List of String Valued Datatypes

Three datatypes IDREFS, ENTITIES and NMTOKENS are derived by list from string valued types.

The relationships between their value spaces mirror the relationships between the value spaces of their itemTypes.

Context Sensitive Datatypes

Three of the XML Schema datatypes depend on the surrounding document context. These are:

The mapping … requires a namespace declaration to be in scope …
The *value space* … is scoped to a specific instance document.

These are not suitable for use in RDF.

Moreover, NOTATION is an abstract type and cannot be used directly. Its subtypes provide an explicit lexical-to-value mapping using the notation element.

Other built-in Datatypes

Above, we have considered many of the XML Schema built-in datatypes: all the numeric types, all the string valued types, and all the list of string valued types.

In this section we list the other types, and the brief definition of their value spaces.

booleanbinary-valued logic: {true, false}
durationa six-dimensional space
dateTimea specific instant of time
timezero-duration daily time instances
dateone-day long, non-periodic instances
gYearMonthone-month long, non-periodic instances
gYearone-year long, non-periodic instances
gMonthDayone-day long, annually periodic instances
gDayone-day long, monthly periodic instances
gMonthone-month long, yearly periodic instances
hexBinaryfinite-length sequences of binary octets
base64Binaryfinite-length sequences of binary octets
QName tuples {namespace name, local part}
NOTATION the set QNames

Of these: the value spaces of hexBinary and of base64Binary are the same; and the value spaces of QName and of NOTATION are the same.

All the others are different and non-overlapping.

The zero length sequence might be considered a common member to the value space of hexBinary, string (and some of its derived types), IDREFS (and the other list valued built-in types).

URIs for Referring to User-defined Simple Types

Within [DAML+OIL], URIs for user-defined simple types are created by concatenating the URL of the definition file, the string "#", and the name of the type.

The [OWL Requirements] includes a Range constraint objective: "The language should support the ability to specify ranges of values"

Meeting this objective, using [XML Schema Datatypes] within RDF, requires the use of URIs for user-defined datatypes. There is a proposal to bless the DAML+OIL mechanism.

If this is to be done, it makes more sense for RDF Core WG to do it; and it would make more sense still for XML Schema WG to do it.

As a stop gap, before the [NUN] work is finished, something that binds a URI reference to a user-defined datatype under tight constraints would suffice (e.g. that the targetNamespace is the URL of the defining file, that the simpleType is a top-level type, that there is no content other than simpleTypes etc. etc.).

Implementation Considerations

It is unlikely that we will see RDF reasoners that are complete with respect to datatype reasoning. This is the case, even if we restrict attention to those relationships shown here which are non-controversial (i.e. between the numeric types excluding float and double, and between the string types excluding anyURI).

Concerns about implementability appear to be the major motivation for the XML Schema WG's rejection of their earlier real datatype as the supertype of all numbers, (cf. member e-mail public e-mail).

Issues with XML Schema Datatypes Document

The whiteSpace Facet

The definition is

[Definition:]   whiteSpace constrains the value space of types derived from string such that the various behaviors specified in Attribute Value Normalization in [XML 1.0 (Second Edition)] are realized. The value of whiteSpace must be one of {preserve, replace, collapse}.

This is an unfortunate wording.

It leaves open possibilities such as:

It also says nothing about its effect on types other than those derived from string.

To understand this definition, it is beneficial to look at the process described in section 3.1.4 White Space Normalization during Validation of [XML Schema Structures]. My understanding is that the normalization described there is applied before the lexical-to-value mapping that occurs in datatyping.

In this document we assume that the intended meaning is something like:

[Definition:]   whiteSpace constrains the lexical space of types. The value of whiteSpace must be one of {preserve, replace, collapse}. If the value is replace or collapse then the string does not contain any characters #x9 (tab), #xA (line feed) and #xD (carriage return). If the value is collapse then the string neither starts nor ends with character #x20 (space), nor does it contain two consecutive #x20 (space) characters.

The contrast between this text and the original text is that between a declaractive definition that leaves procedural issues unclear, and a procedural definition that leaves declarative issues unclear.

The lexical space of normalizedString

The lexical-to-value mapping of string is the identity function. normalizedString is derived from string. Therefore the lexical-to-value mapping of normalizedString is also the identity function.

However, in the defintion, the value space does not contain strings with the line feed character #xA, whereas the lexical space does.

This suggest the question, "For the one character string '#xA' in the lexical space of normalizedString, what is the corresponding value?"

Given the reading of whiteSpace as a constraining facet (see above), and noting that for normalizedString, that the whiteSpace facet has value replace, then this seems like an error. We read the lexical space of normalizedString to exclude #xA. This is similar to erratum 2-17.

Value space of anyURI

A distinctive aspect of the definition of anyURI is that the format of clearly defining both the lexical and value spaces is not followed. As a result, it is unclear what either is.

The [XLink] Locator Attribute text is the key definition, and this talks about an escaping "procedure [which] is applied when passing the URI reference to a URI resolver."

Since the lexical-to-value mapping does not involve resolving the URI, I take the value space to be a set of strings to which this procedure could be applied (but is not).

This is consistent with the following phrase: "For anyURI, length is measured in units of characters (as for string)." found in the discussion on length, which is applied to values in the value spaces.

The lexical and value spaces effectively are identified, and the lexical-to-value mapping is the identity function.

Whitespace in anyURI

The constraining facet whiteSpace for anyURI in the Schema for Datatype Definitions is given as collapse.

This constrains the values of anyURI to exclude #xA, #xD, #x9 and consecutive pairs of #x20; as well as initial and final #x20.

These constraints are not however clearly articulated in the definition of anyURI. For example, the XLink text for the value of the attribute xlink:href does not exclude any of these (remembering that attribute value normalization can be circumvented by the use of character references). Note that in the Sample DTD for [XLink], xlink:href has attribute type CDATA.


See section 4.2.1 of [XML Schema Datatypes]; also E2-30.

The original text says:

Note that a consequence of the above is that, given value space  A and value space  B where A and B are not related by restriction or union, for every pair of values a from A and b from B, a != b.

Given that the earlier text is clear that:

We can substitute "double" for A, "decimal" for B, and 1 (the first positive integer) for both a and b and see that we should:

Note that a consequence of the above is that, given [the] value space  of double and [the] value space   of decimal where double and decimal are not related by restriction or union, for [the] pair of values 1 from double and 1 from decimal [my emphasis], 1 != 1.

The emphasised phrase at the end suggests that this note should not be taken at face value, but in fact serves to show that the "equality" being talked about is misnamed. It appears to be a type-specific equality between two pairs rather than between two indivisable values. These note could perhaps be rephrased to suggest that 1 when regarded as a double is not type-equal to 1 when regarded as a decimal. As it is, it is simply in error. The correction in E2-30 makes the matter worse, by turning the error from being in a non-normative note that fails to clarify the other text, into a normative (but false) assertion: "The value spaces of the primitive datatypes are disjoint (they do not share any values)."

This seems to reflect a tension between the declarative body of the datatypes work, and the equal facet which appears to be motivated by the need to support some processing in [XML Schema Structures]. From section 3.11.1 "The comparison between keyref {fields} and key or unique {fields} is by value equality, not by string equality." A possible change, which would reduce possible confusion with mathematical equality is to rename the equality function in both places, to something like "typed-equality" which would compare two pairs; each pair being a datatype and a value from its value space. These would compare equal if the two values compared equal and the two datatypes were both derived from the same primitive type.

A further problematic example from the text is the definition of the value space of NOTATION. The value space of NOTATION is the set QNames. This flatly contradicts the assertion that the value spaces are disjoint.


[XML Schema Datatypes]
[XML Schema Structures]
[RDF Concepts]
[OWL Guide]
[OWL Requirements]