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Based on the RIF Use Cases and Requirements, this document develops RIF-BLD (the Basic Logic Dialect of the Rule Interchange Format) through a set of foundational concepts that are intended to be shared by all logic-based RIF dialects. The overall RIF design takes the form of a layered architecture organized around the notion of a dialect.

A dialect is a rule language with a well-defined syntax and semantics. This semantics must be model-theoretic, proof-theoretic, or operational in this order of preference. Some dialects might be proper extensions of others (both syntactically and semantically) and some may have incompatible expressive power. RIF BLD has been designed to be extended by all future logic-based dialects

From a theoretical perspective, RIF-BLD corresponds to the language of definite Horn rules (see Horn Logic) with equality and with a standard first-order semantics. Syntactically, RIF-BLD has a number of extensions to support features such as objects and frames, internationalized resource identifiers (or IRIs, defined by RFC 3987) as identifiers for concepts, and XML Schema data types. These latter features make RIF a Web language. However, RIF is designed to enable interoperability among rule languages in general, and its uses are not limited to the Web. The semantics of RIF has provisions for future extensions towards dialects that support pure FOL, dialects that support negation as failure (NAF), business (or production) rules, reactive rules, and other features.

Eventually, it is hoped that RIF dialects will cover a number of important paradigms in rule-based specification and programming. Our main target paradigms include production rules, logic programming, FOL-based rules, reactive rules, and normative rules (integrity constraints).

The central part of RIF is its Condition Language. The condition language defines the syntax and semantics for the bodies of the rules in RIF-BLD and the syntax for queries. However, it is envisioned that the Condition Language will have wider use in RIF. In particular, it might be used as a sublanguage for specifying the conditional part in the bodies of production rules (RIF PRD), reactive rules, and normative rules.

As mentioned, IRI constants are used in RIF both as logical constants and as names for predicate and function symbols. RIF-BLD does not allow the same symbol to play more than one of these roles, but the dialects that extend RIF-BLD may support polymorphic symbols (i.e., symbols that have more than one contextual use; e.g., of a constant and of a predicate). Such polymorphism is common practice in Logic Programming (e.g., [Prolog], [F-logic], [HiLog]) and in [RDF]. This extensibility is achieved in RIF by building its syntax on the basis of signatures. This draft also introduces a frame-based syntax and semantics and defines a normative way for RIF rules to interact with RDF.

The current document is the second draft of the RIF-BLD specification (in the first draft called 'RIF Core'). A number of extensions are planned to support built-ins, additional primitive XML data types, the notion of RIF compliance, and so on. Tool support for RIF-BLD is forthcoming. RIF dialects that extend RIF-BLD will be specified in other documents by this working group.