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Annotations on labels (e.g. time intervals): labels as individuals or annotation properties?

Raised By



January 2007 SWD F2F





ACTION: Alan write up the preferredLabel modelling issue [recorded in]

Annotation on Labels

Labels which are currently modeled as literals in SKOS, as well as possibly other literals, are valid subjects of discourse in SKOS. However, due to an asymmetry in the design of RDF, only resources may be subjects of statements, and literals may only be objects of statements. The question then arises, how are we to annotate (i.e. relate, as subject) labels and other literals to other entities. Three classes of solution are possible.

  1. "promote" literals to resources by creating URIs for them. These resources can then be the subject of statements.
  2. Create a kind of "reified statement" that doesn't constrain the subject to be a resource. Use these reified statements when making statements about literals.
  3. Notice that this isn't the problem - e.g. the relationship in question is manifestly n-ary.

Use Cases

  1. Record the dates during which a particular label for a concept was in common use. (via Allister Miles)
  2. Associate an explanatory annotation with each skos:altLabel, especially for offensive terms. We could use this in a search tool, so that an autosuggest feature could tell users why a term they may have searched for is not considered acceptable. (Anonymous, via Antoine Isaac)
  3. There's also a huge amount of so-called administrative data and other informational data included in many terminology systems that may or may not be relevant to interoperability between various concept schemes, but which may well be the content that people are looking for when they follow these leads into the terminological environment.Sue Ellen Wright

  4. A multilingual vocabulary where needs to represent, among other things grammatical qualifiers such as gender. Those are clearly attached to terms, not to concepts. "Sun" is neutral in english, "Soleil" is masculine in french, "Sonne" is feminine in german. Bernard Vatant

  5. Scope notes on alternate labels: e.g. Grinding Mill. Use GRINDING HOUSE for a place material is crushed and GRINDERY for a place where metal objects are sharpened. Phil Carlisle

  6. For the term: 2 (ρ-Chlorophenyl) furan, unless working in a database designed specifically for chemical terms (Chem Abstracts, for instance) I would want to be able to have a sorting field and a note on term to indicate that this term should be sorted under Chlorophenyl, not under 2 or rho, and certainly not under the parenthesis. This is clearly term-related information that has nothing to do with the concept involved - Sue Ellen Wright
  7. A note on a piece of rhyming slang, assuming that that might come up in a lexical reference (hey, camel's hump happens!). I'm not so sure that the inclusion of such surface level anomalies in language have anything to do with meaning, which is what makes rhyming slang so opaque - Sue Ellen Wright

  8. Capture a relationship of equivalence between different tokens used as altLabels in different languages. In semantic terms, these altLabel tokens have some close relationship (usually they all equivalently express an underlying shared concept [1] that has been specifically excluded from the accepted concepts within the thesaurus itself, often for reasons of literary warrant). In practical terms, the different altLabel tokens are then managed together as a single unit: for example, in doing a translation into a new thesaurus language, there would be a special effort to try to find an equivalent altLabel in the target language corresponding to that excluded concept, and in revising or adapting the thesaurus to local conditions and use, the non-descriptors may be promoted together to descriptor level (or descriptors demoted to non-descriptors, while retaining the semantic relationship between the altLabel tokens that exists in the original descriptor/concept record). - Ron Davies
  9. Term related information from ISO 12620:1999 via Sue Ellen Wright

  10. There are some relationships which could be considered to exist purely between the terms. For example, "stimuli" is the plural-form-of "stimulus". "RDF" is an acronym-for "Resource Description Framework". RDF Thesaurus Design Issues, Issue 10


The first matter is what the scope of relations involving labels should be. Use case 1 is actually a relation between the concept, the literal, and the dates. There are two aspects of this. First, as words can have multiple meaning, the use of a particular word as a label for a specific concept would seem to have to mean the specific meaning of the word. For example, a label "train" might be associated with a concept of locomotive, and also with a concept "guided behavioural modification". Certainly statements made in the context of the first concept, such as annotations as to when the term was first used for the concept, do not carry over to all uses of the term.

On the other hand, as in use-case 2, whether a term is offensive clearly has a different scope, whatever the scope is that the search is over. This is some kind of global scope - all the concept schemes that we are searching over, and would typically be relative to a language.