‘Direct’ Representation of Meta-information and the Tenor of Charters on the Semantic Web: Attempto Controlled English (ACE)

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Ivanovs Aleksandrs (Daugavpils University / Rezekne University, Latvia), Aleksey Varfolomeye (Associate Professor at Petrozavodsk State University, Russia)
The paper discusses some promising approaches to representation of meta-information and the meaning of medieval charters on the Semantic Web in order to provide researchers with appropriate tools for capturing, aggregation, semantic linkage of the charters’ information, and automatic logical inference.

In the paper presented at the Conference on Digital Diplomatics (2011), the authors focused on the basic principles of semantic publications and discussed their applicability to electronic scholarly editing of charters’ corpora (http://www.cei.lmu.de/digdipl11/slides-rep/booklet-abstracts.pdf). The existing approaches to creation of additional semantic layers (e.g. on the basis of structural markup according to TEI and CEI markup schemes; employing Semantic Media Wiki tools; etc.) are oriented to representation of meta-information and some (arbitrary) aspects of the tenor of the charters. Meanwhile, it is desirable that the meaning of the charters is represented fully in order to aggregate their ‘internal’ information within a semantic network and to link this information with ‘external’ data provided by ontologies. Therefore, the authors proposed to use controlled natural languages – namely, Attempto Controlled English (ACE) – to represent the tenor of the charters on the Semantic Web.

In this paper, the authors develop this idea in order to demonstrate actual and potential (rather promising) possibilities of ACE in representation of the meaning of Old Russian charters as well as meta-information about them. Recent research conducted by the authors testifies that perspectives of using ACE as a tool for representation of the meaning of the charters on the Semantic Web are closely connected with the possibilities to make logic inference based on ACE texts. Therefore, a special attention is devoted to ACE tools, first and foremost – to ACE Reasoner (RACE).

In some cases, automatic logic inference does not pose serious problems: e.g., enormous amounts of facts related to the texts (meta-information) can be entered and processed automatically. The paper shows that ACE is an appropriate tool useful for logic inference that is based on the sets of statements, which reveal interconnections between medieval charters within a definite semantic network; it means that ACE can be used for the purposes of creation of such networks. Unfortunately, some problems emerge while processing the texts of the charters: Attempto Reasoner has failed to make logical inference from the statements that represent the full texts of the documents. Possibly this problem reflect the present-day level of elaboration of ACE. However, the authors propose some possible solutions to the problem. One of them is ‘simplification’ and fragmentation of ACE-texts. Another solution is binding together XML-markup and ACE-texts. In the paper, both variants are discussed in detail.

It is obvious that rendering Old Russian texts into ACE causes losses of information. However, it can be conducive for diplomatic research, and especially for analytical operations. Anyway, this mode of representation of the texts within the semantic network can preserve and ‘activate’ much more informative aspects of the charters’ tenor than any other way of creation of semantic layers.

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