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Re: [ontolog-forum] Automatized databased generated Ontologies

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2007 09:08:53 -0500
Message-id: <45F018F5.4000200@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Juan and Patrick,    (01)

That is an excellent thing to do:    (02)

 > I was wondering if anybody had information or comments
 > about generating ontologies using the schema of a
 > relational database, not a mapping of a DB and an
 > existing ontology, but creating a ontology from scratch
 > using only the DB schema.    (03)

In fact, many people in the database community recognized
the strong correspondences between the issues and techniques
of database design and knowledge base design very early.    (04)

For example, my first published paper on conceptual graphs
(in 1976) explicitly addressed the problem of mapping
natural languages to database languages.  And I used the
term "conceptual schema" for certain kinds of CGs before
I learned that the DB people were also using that term:    (05)

    Conceptual Graphs for a Database Interface    (06)

Some people thought that databases were my major inspiration
for CGs.  But in fact, I started with NL semantics.  Since I
was working for IBM, I realized that it was important for me
to be "relevant" by relating what I wanted to do to what IBM
thought it would be useful for me to do.    (07)

When I wrote my _Conceptual Structures_ book in 1983, I
related the work in natural languages, knowledge bases,
and databases to the many millennia of research in
philosophy.  In fact, I was one of the early adopters
and proponents of the term "ontology" in that book.
(If I had known then what I know now, I probably would
have chosen a different word.)    (08)

In any case, to answer your question, the people who had
been organizing the annual VLDB (Very Large DataBase)
conferences for many years devoted an enormous amount of
attention to doing and redoing exactly the same kinds of
things that people are doing today.    (09)

The DB people got there first by addressing the problems
of "database alignment" in the 1970s.  The SRKB people
did the same in the 1990s.  The SemWebbers are doing
the same today.    (010)

Every 20 years or so, a new generation of people comes
along and reinvents the same wheels, thinking that nobody
else had ever done anything before them.    (011)

For more on the history of some of these ideas, see the
slides of a talk I gave last year:    (012)

    Extending Semantic Interoperability.    (013)

And to comment on Patrick's note,    (014)

PD> While certainly useful, logic should not be portrayed as
 > the warp and woof of ontologies or ontological work.    (015)

I agree.  Ontology and logic are different subjects.  But I
would add that *every* precise declarative notation that is
capable of making statements that are judged true or false
*is* a version of logic.    (016)

UML diagrams, for example, are a version of logic.  The
declarative subset of natural languages forms a version of
logic -- and in fact, NL (actually Greek) was Aristotle's
inspiration for the first formal logic.  And *every*
statement in *every* version of logic that anyone has
ever invented can be translated into natural language.    (017)

So anyone who is doing any work on ontology is stating
their results in some version of logic (but possibly in
a rather imprecise and insufficiently understood version).    (018)

John    (019)

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