A Translation Approach to Portable Ontology Specifications

Thomas R. Gruber (1993). A Translation Approach to Portable Ontology Specifications. Knowledge Acquisition, 5(2), 1993, pp. 199-220.
This is the official Ontolingua paper, containing the fabled definition of ontology as specification.

This is the paper that first published the fabled definition of ontology as specification, with a theoretical grounding in AI agency and knowledge representation. This journal was merged into the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, and this paper was recognized as the highest cited article in the history of those journals.

Abstract: To support the sharing and reuse of formally represented knowledge among AI systems, it is useful to define the common vocabulary in which shared knowledge is represented. A specification of a representational vocabulary for a shared domain of discourse — definitions of classes, relations, functions, and other objects — is called an ontology. This paper describes a mechanism for defining ontologies that are portable over representation systems.

Citation: Thomas R. Gruber. A Translation Approach to Portable Ontology Specifications. Knowledge Acquisition, 5(2):199-220, 1993.

Context: This paper is the one usually cited for the definition of Ontology as a formal specification of a conceptualization. It also describes the Frame Ontology, which bridged object oriented and relational knowledge representations, and the Ontolingua system, which translated among ontologies.

Full Abstract: To support the sharing and reuse of formally represented knowledge among AI systems, it is useful to define the common vocabulary in which shared knowledge is represented. A specification of a representational vocabulary for a shared domain of discourse — definitions of classes, relations, functions, and other objects — is called an ontology. This paper describes a mechanism for defining ontologies that are portable over representation systems. Definitions written in a standard format for predicate calculus are translated by a system called Ontolingua into specialized representations, including frame-based systems as well as relational languages. This allows researchers to share and reuse ontologies, while retaining the computational benefits of specialized implementations. We discuss how the translation approach to portability addresses several technical problems. One problem is how to accommodate the stylistic and organizational differences among representations while preserving declarative content. Another is how to translate from a very expressive language into restricted languages, remaining system-independent while preserving the computational efficiency of implemented systems. We describe how these problems are addressed by basing Ontolingua itself on an ontology of domain-independent, representational idioms.

External URL: http://ksl-web.stanford.edu/KSL_Abstracts/KSL-92-71.html