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Concepts and semantic relations in information science



Concept-based information retrieval and knowledge representation are in need of a theory of concepts and semantic relations. Guidelines for the construction and maintenance of knowledge organization systems (KOS) (such as ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 in the U.S.A. or DIN 2331:1980 in Germany) do not consider results of concept theory and theory of relations to the full extent. They are not able to unify the currently different worlds of traditional controlled vocabularies, of the social web (tagging and folksonomies) and of the semantic web (ontologies). Concept definitions as well as semantic relations are based on epistemological theories (empiricism, rationalism, hermeneutics, pragmatism, and critical theory). A concept is determined via its intension and extension as well as by definition. We will meet the problem of vagueness by introducing prototypes. Some important definitions are concept explanations (after Aristotle) and the definition of family resemblances (in the sense of Wittgenstein). We will model concepts as frames (according to Barsalou). The most important paradigmatic relation in KOS is hierarchy, which must be arranged into different classes: Hyponymy consists of taxonomy and simple hyponymy, meronymy consists of many different part-whole-relations. For practical application purposes, the transitivity of the given relation is very important. Unspecific associative relations are of little help to our focused applications and should be replaced by generalizable and domain-specific relations. We will discuss the reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity of paradigmatic relations as well as the appearance of specific semantic relations in the different kinds of KOS (folksonomies, nomenclatures, classification systems, thesauri, and ontologies). Finally, we will pick out KOS as a central theme of the Semantic Web.

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