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RAMEAU Subject Heading Language

[[[Notice: own interpretation of available resources, this has not been reviewed by BNF experts]]]

Rameau is a subject heading vocabulary used by the French National Library ( It has been developped starting from the subject heading repository of the Quebec University, being derived itself from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

Rameau's main components are its headings, the conceptual elements that are used to index books. Headings can represent one single concept, or a combination of concepts. They come with lexical and semantic information, like equivalence relations between headings and non-preferred terms (used for for synonyms or quasi-synonyms), hierarchical links (generic and specific headings) and non-hierarchical associative link. They are also provided with a caracterization of the domain they belong to (using the Dewey Decimal Classification) and with optional application notes.

To enable the rendering of complex concepts in an articulated way, Rameau allows to design new subject headings from a combination of several elements from its vocabulary. One heading, the main heading is appended with one or more subdivisions that address a specific aspect of the subject, being a date, a place or a more precise conceptual aspect.

Femmes -- Travail [Women -- Work]
Femmes -- Travail -- Aspect psychologique [Women -- Work -- Psychological aspect]
Femmes -- Travail -- France [[Women -- Work -- France]
Industrie -- 19e siècle [Industry -- 19th century]

Not all the headings can be used as subdivisions, and not all the headings that are potential subdivisions can be used as main headings (amongst 91000 common noun subjects, 3300 can be used as subdivisions only). Potential subdivisions are also divided into specific ones, which can only be applied to a small range of selected headings (e.g. Evacuation in Eaux usées -- Evacuation [Waste water -- Evacuation]), and generic ones, that can be applied in combination to any heading, provided it is compatible with the application domain of the subdivision. Some potential main headings also specify which are the general subdivisions that can be applied to them. For example, Femmes [+ subd. géogr.] says that geographical subdivisions can be appended to the Women main heading. The Rameau system therefore results in certain subject headings being allowed (Tourisme rural -- France) while other are rejected (France -- Tourisme rural).

Finally, in addition to specifying the status (main heading only, heading or subdivision, subdivision only) of its object, a heading's notice comes with metadata fields about the source of the heading and its creation and update dates. A large amount of Rameau also have link to an equivalent LCSH heading. An example of notice can be found here: