W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > May 2001

Ontologies =?= Languages

From: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 19 May 2001 09:06:16 -0400
Message-Id: <200105191306.JAA09038@hawke.org>
To: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
cc: www-rdf-logic@w3.org

pat:
> sandro:
> > pat: 
> > > sandro:
> > > >The idea (I think) is that the languages are themselves just
> > > >ontologies.
> > >
> > > That doesn't make sense. Really, it doesnt. What you could do, is to
> > > use an ontology to describe the SYNTAX of another language, which is
> > > in fact what you are doing in your example. But then you need to
> > > somehow USE that syntax to say what you need to say, not just REFER
> > > to it.
> >
> >What is the difference between an ontology and a language?
> 
> Like that between programs and programming languages. Ontologies are 
> written in languages. Once the rules of the language are given, then 
> you can write lots of different ontologies in it; but without the 
> language, you can't get started. It would be like writing code in a 
> language that hadnt been invented yet, and expecting it to compile 
> itself.
> 
> > They both
> >involve parties communicating using some shared notions about the
> >structure of their domain of discourse and some symbols with shared
> >denotation, as far as I can tell.
> 
> But the ontologies consist of assertions about the domain only by 
> virtue of the semantic rules supplied by the language they are 
> written in.

I agree that one can express an ontology in a language.  In that case
clearly the ontology and the language are different things. 

My question is about when you use them each to communicate about the
same domain.  An ontology for discussing fruit -vs- a language for
discussing fruit.  Is DAML+OIL an ontology for discussing ontologies,
or a language for discussing ontologies?  

I think the ontology is somewhat more abstract -- it can't have its
own syntax -- but I'm not sure where to draw the line.  Maybe an 
ontology for fruit + a logic language (eg FOL) == a language for
discussing fruit?   Here I'm thinking of an ontology as a vocabulary
(a set of symbols denoting mostly properties of fruit) with a shared
understanding of their meaning.

But if we're layering on ground atomic binary predicates, then what's
the difference?   What's the difference between an ontology for fruit
layered on that base and a language for fruit layered on that base?

> >I see both terms as generalizations of such terms as "database
> >schema", "file format", "network protocol".  Maybe I should stick with
> >terms like that until I get more face-to-face time with KR folk.
> >(However people establish shared meanings, e-mail doesn't seem to work
> >nearly as well as face-to-face.  But conversation e-mail works a lot
> >better than just reading.)
> 
> True. Takes up a hell of a lot of time, though.

Alas.   But it's be kind of fun, too.

   -- sandro
Received on Saturday, 19 May 2001 09:06:22 UTC

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