AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Ontological Semantics

by Frank Loebe

Institution: Universit├Ąt Leipzig
Department: Mathematik und Informatik
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1104101
Full text PDF: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:15-qucosa-166326


The original and still a major purpose of ontologies in computer and information sciences is to serve for the semantic integration of represented content, facilitating information system interoperability. Content can be data, information, and knowledge, and it can be distributed within or across these categories. A myriad of languages is available for representation. Ontologies themselves are artifacts which are expressed in various languages. Different such languages are utilized today, including, as well-known representatives, predicate logic, subsuming first-order (predicate) logic (FOL), in particular, and higher-order (predicate) logic (HOL); the Web Ontology Language (OWL) on the basis of description logics (DL); and the Unified Modeling Language (UML). We focus primarily on languages with formally defined syntax and semantics. This overall picture immediately suggests questions of the following kinds: What is the relationship between an ontology and the language in which it is formalized? Especially, what is the impact of the formal semantics of the language on the formalized ontology? How well understood is the role of ontologies in semantic integration? Can the same ontology be represented in multiple languages and/or in distinct ways within one language? Is there an adequate understanding of whether two expressions are intensionally/conceptually equivalent and whether two ontologies furnish the same ontological commitments? One may assume that these questions are resolved. Indeed, the development and adoption of ontologies is widespread today. Ontologies are authored in a broad range of different languages, including offering equally named ontologies in distinct languages. Much research is devoted to techniques and technologies that orbit ontologies, for example, ontology matching, modularization, learning, and evolution, to name a few. Ontologies have found numerous beneficial applications, and hundreds of ontologies have been created, considering solely the context of biomedical research. For us, these observations increase the relevance of the stated questions and close relatives thereof, and raise the desire for solid theoretical underpinnings. In the literature of computer and information sciences, we have found only few approaches that tackle the foundations of ontologies and their representation to allow for answering such questions or that actually answer them. We elaborate an analysis of the subject as the first item of central contributions within this thesis. It mainly results in the identification of a vicious circularity in (i) the intended use of ontologies to mediate between formal representations and (ii) solely exploiting formal semantic notions in representing ontologies and defining ontology-based equivalence as a form of intensional/conceptual equivalence. On this basis and in order to overcome its identified limitations, we contribute a general model-theoretic semantic account, named \\\"ontological semantics\\\". This kind of semantics takes the approach of assigning arbitrary…