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Re: [ontolog-forum] Just What Is an Ontology, Anyway?

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Paola Di Maio <paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 22 Oct 2009 22:12:34 +0100
Message-id: <4a4804720910221412x290d7ab2sbffde5987de89e9d@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
That's such interesting backgound, thanks

Great things archives eh? they dont gather dust anymore even
Information Systems development started to move away from being
dominated by matematicians and logicians alone, into the hands of more disparate people/roles, therefore more intuitive notations than matemathical representation of logical constructs (such as UML) have become accepted in engineering and therefore the importance of vocabularies, Modern terminologists call themselves ontologists, from what I observe.

 Dijnes says that that in the real world, he writes specifications using three notations alongside each other

mathematical/DL formulas
plain english (natural language)
chinese (or other target language)

IT History Lessons that contemporary science/research should not ignore
(back to the organisational memory topic?)


On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 9:55 PM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> I take it that Tom Gruber and yourself did not share a mailing
> list twenty years ago?

Actually, we both participated in the SRKB effort (Shared Reusable
Knowledge Bases), which began in 1991.  Following is the mailing


As you might note, two of the most frequent contributors were
Pat Hayes and me.  Another project that began from that effort
was KIF (Knowledge Interchange Format) by Mike Genesereth
and Richard Fikes.

At that time, I was also participating in the ANSI and ISO
standards efforts for a project on conceptual schemas.  I
suggested that Mike and Richard should join that group in
order to define compatible ANSI standards for both conceptual
graphs and KIF.  As part of that effort Mike also hosted
some workshops on ontology at Stanford during 1996 and '97.
After several fits and starts, the KIF and CG projects
evolved into ISO projects for Common Logic.

> I recently attended a seminar held by Prof., Dr Dines Bjørner,
> Emeritus, he presented his work as 'domain engineering' and
> resembles very much what we have come to practice as
> 'ontology engineering' after Gruber.

Dines B. had been working on using logic for the formal
specification of programming languages and databases since
the 1960s.  The database people coined the term 'conceptual
schema' in the 1970s for something that is indistinguishable
from what people are now calling an ontology.

But the person who coined the term 'ontology engineering'
was Doug Lenat.  He was even advertising for ontological
engineers as a semi-jocular "tongue in cheek" term.  But
some people took him seriously.

> ... it looks like conceptual analysis per se (afaik) does

> not necessarily model vocabularies, does it - and what about
> relations-semantics

The people who develop vocabularies are called terminologists.
They even have official titles at the United Nations, such as
Terminologue de la Langue française.  They have been doing
conceptual analysis as a basis for terminologies from the
early part of the 20th century.  They did not use logic for
their definitions, but their results have been adopted as
the basis for some of the largest computer ontologies.

> from what I see, conceptual analysis is a subset of ont-domain eng

Technically speaking, analysis is part of the methodology.  The
result of the analysis is a formal specification, which can be
called an ontology, but has been called many other things over
the past half century.


Paola Di Maio
Director of Change,
Sustainable Innovation, UK


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