RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax

W3C Last Call Working Draft

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Richard Cyganiak, DERI, NUI Galway
David Wood, 3 Round Stones


The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a framework for representing information in the Web.

RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax defines an abstract syntax (a data model) which serves to link all RDF-based languages and specifications. The abstract syntax has two key data structures: RDF graphs are sets of subject-predicate-object triples, where the elements may be IRIs, blank nodes, or datatyped literals. They are used to express descriptions of resources. RDF datasets are used to organize collections of RDF graphs, and comprise a default graph and zero or more named graphs. This document also introduces key concepts and terminology, and discusses datatyping and the handling of fragment identifiers in IRIs within RDF graphs.

Status of This Document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at http://www.w3.org/TR/.

This document was published by the RDF Working Group as a Last Call Working Draft. This document is intended to become a W3C Recommendation. If you wish to make comments regarding this document, please send them to public-rdf-comments@w3.org (subscribe, archives). The Last Call period ends 06 September 2013. All comments are welcome.

Publication as a Last Call Working Draft does not imply endorsement by the W3C Membership. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

This is a Last Call Working Draft and thus the Working Group has determined that this document has satisfied the relevant technical requirements and is sufficiently stable to advance through the Technical Recommendation process.

This document was produced by a group operating under the 5 February 2004 W3C Patent Policy. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the group; that page also includes instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

This section is non-normative.

The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a framework for representing information in the Web.

This document defines an abstract syntax (a data model) which serves to link all RDF-based languages and specifications, including:

1.1 Graph-based Data Model

This section is non-normative.

The core structure of the abstract syntax is a set of triples, each consisting of a subject, a predicate and an object. A set of such triples is called an RDF graph. An RDF graph can be visualized as a node and directed-arc diagram, in which each triple is represented as a node-arc-node link.

An RDF graph with two nodes (Subject and Object) and a triple connecting them (Predicate)
Fig. 1 An RDF graph with two nodes (Subject and Object) and a triple connecting them (Predicate)

There can be three kinds of nodes in an RDF graph: IRIs, literals, and blank nodes.

1.2 Resources and Statements

Any IRI or literal denotes something in the world (the "universe of discourse"). These things are called resources. Anything can be a resource, including physical things, documents, abstract concepts, numbers and strings; the term is synonymous with “entity”. The resource denoted by an IRI is called its referent, and the resource denoted by a literal is called its literal value. Literals have datatypes that define the range of possible values, such as strings, numbers, and dates. A special kind of literals, language-tagged strings, denote plain-text strings in a natural language.

Asserting an RDF triple says that some relationship, indicated by the predicate, holds between the resources denoted by the subject and object. This statement corresponding to an RDF triple is known as an RDF statement. The predicate itself is an IRI and denotes a property, that is, a resource that can be thought of as a binary relation. (Relations that involve more than two entities can only be indirectly expressed in RDF [SWBP-N-ARYRELATIONS].)

Unlike IRIs and literals, blank nodes do not denote specific resources. Statements involving blank nodes say that something with the given relationships exists, without explicitly naming it.

1.3 The Referent of an IRI

The resource denoted by an IRI is also called its referent. For some IRIs with particular meanings, such as those identifying XSD datatypes, the referent is fixed by this specification. For all other IRIs, what exactly is denoted by any given IRI is not defined by this specification. Other specifications may fix IRI referents, or apply other constraints on what may be the referent of any IRI.

Guidelines for determining the referent of an IRI are provided in other documents, like Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One [WEBARCH] and Cool URIs for the Semantic Web [COOLURIS]. A very brief, informal and partial account follows:

Perhaps the most important characteristic of IRIs in web architecture is that they can be dereferenced, and hence serve as starting points for interactions with a remote server. This specification is not concerned with such interactions. It does not define an interaction model. It only treats IRIs as globally unique identifiers in a graph data model that describes resources. However, those interactions are critical to the concept of Linked Data [LINKED-DATA], which makes use of the RDF data model and serialization formats.

1.4 RDF Vocabularies and Namespace IRIs

An RDF vocabulary is a collection of IRIs intended for use in RDF graphs. For example, the IRIs documented in [RDF-SCHEMA] are the RDF Schema vocabulary. RDF Schema can itself be used to define and document additional RDF vocabularies. Some such vocabularies are mentioned in the Primer [RDF-PRIMER].

The IRIs in an RDF vocabulary often begin with a common substring known as a namespace IRI. Some namespace IRIs are associated by convention with a short name known as a namespace prefix. Some examples:

Some example namespace prefixes and IRIs
Namespace prefixNamespace IRIRDF vocabulary
rdfhttp://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#The RDF built-in vocabulary [RDF-SCHEMA]
rdfshttp://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#The RDF Schema vocabulary [RDF-SCHEMA]
xsdhttp://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#The RDF-compatible XSD types

In some serialization formats it is common to abbreviate IRIs that start with namespace IRIs by using a namespace prefix in order to assist readability. For example, the IRI http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#XMLLiteral would be abbreviated as rdf:XMLLiteral. Note however that these abbreviations are not valid IRIs, and must not be used in contexts where IRIs are expected. Namespace IRIs and namespace prefixes are not a formal part of the RDF data model. They are merely a syntactic convenience for abbreviating IRIs.

The term “namespace” on its own does not have a well-defined meaning in the context of RDF, but is sometimes informally used to mean “namespace IRI” or “RDF vocabulary”.

1.5 RDF and Change Over Time

The RDF data model is atemporal: It does not deal with time, and does not have a built-in notion of temporal validity of information. RDF graphs are static snapshots of information.

However, RDF graphs can express information about events and about temporal aspects of other entities, given appropriate vocabulary terms.

Since RDF graphs are defined as mathematical sets, adding or removing triples from an RDF graph yields a different RDF graph.

We informally use the term RDF source to refer to a persistent yet mutable source or container of RDF graphs. An RDF source is a resource that may be said to have a state that can change over time. A snapshot of the state can be expressed as an RDF graph. For example, any web document that has an RDF-bearing representation may be considered an RDF source. Like all resources, RDF sources may be named with IRIs and therefore described in other RDF graphs.

Intuitively speaking, changes in the universe of discourse can be reflected in the following ways:

1.6 Working with Multiple RDF Graphs

As RDF graphs are sets of triples, they can be combined easily, supporting the use of data from multiple sources. Nevertheless, it is sometimes desirable to work with multiple RDF graphs while keeping their contents separate. RDF datasets support this requirement.

An RDF dataset is a collection of RDF graphs. All but one of these graphs have an associated IRI or blank node. They are called named graphs, and the IRI or blank node is called the graph name. The remaining graph does not have an associated IRI, and is called the default graph of the RDF dataset.

There are many possible uses for RDF datasets. One such use is to hold snapshots of multiple RDF sources.

1.7 Equivalence, Entailment and Inconsistency

An RDF triple encodes a statement—a simple logical expression, or claim about the world. An RDF graph is the conjunction (logical AND) of its triples. The precise details of this meaning of RDF triples and graphs are the subject of the RDF Semantics specification [RDF-MT], which yields the following relationships between RDF graphs:

An RDF graph A entails another RDF graph B if every possible arrangement of the world that makes A true also makes B true. When A entails B, if the truth of A is presumed or demonstrated then the truth of B is established.
Two RDF graphs A and B are equivalent if they make the same claim about the world. A is equivalent to B if and only if A entails B and B entails A.
An RDF graph is inconsistent if it contains an internal contradiction. There is no possible arrangement of the world that would make the expression true.

An entailment regime [RDF-MT] is a specification that defines precise conditions that make these relationships hold. RDF itself recognizes only some basic cases of entailment, equivalence and inconsistency. Other specifications, such as RDF Schema [RDF-SCHEMA] and OWL 2 [OWL2-OVERVIEW], add more powerful entailment regimes, as do some domain-specific vocabularies.

This specification does not constrain how implementations use the logical relationships defined by entailment regimes. Implementations may or may not detect inconsistencies, and may make all, some or no entailed information available to users.

1.8 RDF Documents and Syntaxes

An RDF document is a document that encodes an RDF graph or RDF dataset in a concrete RDF syntax, such as Turtle [TURTLE-CR], RDFa [RDFA-PRIMER], JSON-LD [JSON-LD], RDF/XML [RDF-SYNTAX-GRAMMAR], or N-Triples [N-TRIPLES]. RDF documents enable the exchange of RDF graphs and RDF datasets between systems.

A concrete RDF syntax may offer many different ways to encode the same RDF graph or RDF dataset, for example through the use of namespace prefixes, relative IRIs, blank node identifiers, and different ordering of statements. While these aspects can have great effect on the convenience of working with the RDF document, they are not significant for its meaning.

2. Conformance

As well as sections marked as non-normative, all authoring guidelines, diagrams, examples, and notes in this specification are non-normative. Everything else in this specification is normative.

The key words MUST, MUST NOT, REQUIRED, SHOULD, SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL in this specification are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

This specification, RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax, defines a data model and related terminology for use in other specifications, such as concrete RDF syntaxes, API specifications, and query languages. Implementations cannot directly conform to RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax, but can conform to such other specifications that normatively reference terms defined here.

3. RDF Graphs

An RDF graph is a set of RDF triples.

3.1 Triples

An RDF triple consists of three components:

An RDF triple is conventionally written in the order subject, predicate, object.

The set of nodes of an RDF graph is the set of subjects and objects of triples in the graph. It is possible for a predicate IRI to also occur as a node in the same graph.

IRIs, literals and blank nodes are collectively known as RDF terms.


IRIs, literals and blank nodes are distinct and distinguishable. For example, http://example.org/ as a string literal is not equal to http://example.org/ as an IRI, nor to a blank node with the blank node identifier http://example.org/.

3.2 IRIs

An IRI (Internationalized Resource Identifier) within an RDF graph is a Unicode string [UNICODE] that conforms to the syntax defined in RFC 3987 [RFC3987].

IRIs in the RDF abstract syntax MUST be absolute, and MAY contain a fragment identifier.

IRI equality: Two IRIs are equal if and only if they are equivalent under Simple String Comparison according to section 5.1 of [RFC3987]. Further normalization MUST NOT be performed when comparing IRIs for equality.


URIs and IRIs: IRIs are a generalization of URIs [RFC3986] that permits a much wider range of Unicode characters. Every absolute URI and URL is an IRI, but not every IRI is an URI. When IRIs are used in operations that are only defined for URIs, they must first be converted according to the mapping defined in section 3.1 of [RFC3987]. A notable example is retrieval over the HTTP protocol. The mapping involves UTF-8 encoding of non-ASCII characters, %-encoding of octets not allowed in URIs, and Punycode-encoding of domain names.

Relative IRIs: Some concrete RDF syntaxes permit relative IRIs as a convenient shorthand that allows authoring of documents independently from their final publishing location. Relative IRIs must be resolved against a base IRI to make them absolute. Therefore, the RDF graph serialized in such syntaxes is well-defined only if a base IRI can be established [RFC3986].

IRI normalization: Interoperability problems can be avoided by minting only IRIs that are normalized according to Section 5 of [RFC3987]. Non-normalized forms that are best avoided include:

  • Uppercase characters in scheme names and domain names
  • Percent-encoding of characters where it is not required by IRI syntax
  • Explicitly stated HTTP default port (http://example.com:80/); http://example.com/ is preferrable
  • Completely empty path in HTTP IRIs (http://example.com); http://example.com/ is preferrable
  • /./” or “/../” in the path component of an IRI
  • Lowercase hexadecimal letters within percent-encoding triplets (“%3F” is preferable over “%3f”)
  • Punycode-encoding of Internationalized Domain Names in IRIs
  • IRIs that are not in Unicode Normalization Form C [NFC]

3.3 Literals

Literals are used for values such as strings, numbers and dates.

A literal in an RDF graph consists of two or three elements:

A literal is a language-tagged string if and only if its datatype IRI is http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#langString, and only in this case the third element is present:


Implementors might wish to note that language tags conform to the regular expression ’@’ [a-zA-Z]{1,8} (’-’ [a-zA-Z0-9]{1,8})* before normalizing to lowercase.

Multiple literals may have the same lexical form.

Concrete syntaxes MAY support simple literals, consisting of only a lexical form without any datatype IRI or language tag. Simple literals only exist in concrete syntaxes, and are treated as syntactic sugar for abstract syntax literals with the datatype IRI http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string.

Literal term equality: Two literals are term-equal (the same RDF literal) if and only if the two lexical forms, the two datatype IRIs, and the two language tags (if any) compare equal, character by character.

Two literals can have the same value without being the same RDF term. For example:


denote the same value, but are not the same literal RDF terms and are not term-equals.

The literal value associated with a literal is:

  1. If the literal is a language-tagged string, then the literal value is a pair consisting of its lexical form and its language tag, in that order.
  2. If the literal's datatype IRI is not recognized by an implementation, then the literal value is not defined by this specification.
  3. Let d be the referent of the datatype IRI in the set of recognized datatype IRIs. If the literal's lexical form is in the lexical space of d, then the literal value is the result of applying the lexical-to-value mapping of d to the lexical form.
  4. Otherwise, the literal is ill-typed, and no literal value can be associated with the literal. Such a case produces a semantic inconsistency but is not syntactically ill-formed and implementations MUST accept ill-typed literals and produce RDF graphs from them. Implementations MAY produce warnings when encountering ill-typed literals.

3.4 Blank Nodes

Blank nodes are disjoint from IRIs and literals. Otherwise, the set of possible blank nodes is arbitrary. RDF makes no reference to any internal structure of blank nodes.


Blank node identifiers are local identifiers that are used in some concrete RDF syntaxes or RDF store implementations. They are always locally scoped to the file or RDF store, and are not persistent or portable identifiers for blank nodes. Blank node identifiers are not part of the RDF abstract syntax, but are entirely dependent on the concrete syntax or implementation. The syntactic restrictions on blank node identifiers, if any, therefore also depend on the concrete RDF syntax or implementation. Implementations that handle blank node identifiers in concrete syntaxes need to be careful not to create the same blank node from multiple occurences of the same blank node identifier except in situations where this is supported by the syntax.

3.5 Replacing Blank Nodes with IRIs

Blank nodes do not have identifiers in the RDF abstract syntax. The blank node identifiers introduced by some concrete syntaxes have only local scope and are purely an artifact of the serialization.

In situations where stronger identification is needed, systems MAY systematically replace some or all of the blank nodes in an RDF graph with IRIs. Systems wishing to do this SHOULD mint a new, globally unique IRI (a Skolem IRI) for each blank node so replaced.

This transformation does not appreciably change the meaning of an RDF graph, provided that the Skolem IRIs do not occur anywhere else. It does however permit the possibility of other graphs subsequently using the Skolem IRIs, which is not possible for blank nodes.

Systems may wish to mint Skolem IRIs in such a way that they can recognize the IRIs as having been introduced solely to replace blank nodes. This allows a system to map IRIs back to blank nodes if needed.

Systems that want Skolem IRIs to be recognizable outside of the system boundaries SHOULD use a well-known IRI [RFC5785] with the registered name genid. This is an IRI that uses the HTTP or HTTPS scheme, or another scheme that has been specified to use well-known IRIs; and whose path component starts with /.well-known/genid/.

For example, the authority responsible for the domain example.com could mint the following recognizable Skolem IRI:


RFC 5785 [RFC5785] only specifies well-known URIs, not IRIs. For the purpose of this document, a well-known IRI is any IRI that results in a well-known URI after IRI-to-URI mapping [RFC3987].

3.6 Graph Comparison

Two RDF graphs G and G' are isomorphic (that is, they have an identical form) if there is a bijection M between the sets of nodes of the two graphs, such that:

  1. M maps blank nodes to blank nodes.
  2. M(lit)=lit for all RDF literals lit which are nodes of G.
  3. M(uri)=uri for all IRIs uri which are nodes of G.
  4. The triple ( s, p, o ) is in G if and only if the triple ( M(s), p, M(o) ) is in G'

See also: IRI equality, literal term equality.

With this definition, M shows how each blank node in G can be replaced with a new blank node to give G'. Graph isomorphism is needed to support the RDF Test Cases [RDF-TESTCASES] specification.

4. RDF Datasets

An RDF dataset is a collection of RDF graphs, and comprises:

Blank nodes MAY be shared between graphs in an RDF dataset.


Despite the use of the word “name” in “named graph”, the graph name does not formally denote the graph. It is merely syntactically paired with the graph. RDF does not place any formal restrictions on what resource the graph name may denote, nor on the relationship between that resource and the graph.

Some RDF dataset implementations do not track empty named graphs. Applications can avoid interoperability issues by not ascribing importance to the presence or absence of empty named graphs.

Blank nodes as graph names are new. Existing SPARQL implementations might not accept this new feature for some time, so the use of blank nodes as graph names can cause interoperability problems. Skolemizing blank nodes used as graph names can be used to overcome these interoperability problems.

4.1 RDF Dataset Comparison

Two RDF datasets (the RDF dataset D1 with default graph DG1 and named graph NG1 and the RDF dataset D2 with default graph DG2 and named graph NG2) are dataset-isomorphic if and only if:

  1. DG1 and DG2 are graph-isomorphic;
  2. For each (n1,g1) in NG1, there exists (n2,g2) in NG2 such that n1=n2 and g1 and g2 are graph-isomorphic;
  3. For each (n2,g2) in NG2, there exists (n1,g1) in NG1 such that n1=n2 and g1 and g2 are graph-isomorphic.

4.2 Content Negotiation of RDF Datasets

This section is non-normative.

Primary resources may have multiple representations that are made available via content negotiation [WEBARCH]. A representation may be returned in an RDF serialization format that supports the expression of both RDF datasets and RDF graphs. If an RDF dataset is returned and the consumer is expecting an RDF graph, the consumer is expected to use the RDF dataset's default graph.

5. Datatypes

Datatypes are used with RDF literals to represent values such as strings, numbers and dates. The datatype abstraction used in RDF is compatible with XML Schema [XMLSCHEMA11-2]. Any datatype definition that conforms to this abstraction MAY be used in RDF, even if not defined in terms of XML Schema. RDF re-uses many of the XML Schema built-in datatypes, and provides two additional built-in datatypes, rdf:HTML and rdf:XMLLiteral. The list of datatypes supported by an implementation is determined by its recognized datatype IRIs.

A datatype consists of a lexical space, a value space and a lexical-to-value mapping, and is denoted by one or more IRIs.

The lexical space of a datatype is a set of Unicode [UNICODE] strings.

The lexical-to-value mapping of a datatype is a set of pairs whose first element belongs to the lexical space, and the second element belongs to the value space of the datatype. Each member of the lexical space is paired with exactly one value, and is a lexical representation of that value. The mapping can be seen as a function from the lexical space to the value space.


Language-tagged strings have the datatype IRI http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#langString. No datatype is formally defined for this IRI because the definition of datatypes does not accommodate language tags in the lexical space. The value space associated with this datatype IRI is the set of all pairs of strings and language tags.

For example, the XML Schema datatype xsd:boolean, where each member of the value space has two lexical representations, is defined as follows:

Lexical space:
{“true”, “false”, “1”, “0”}
Value space:
{true, false}
Lexical-to-value mapping
{ <“true”, true>, <“false”, false>, <“1”, true>, <“0”, false>, }

The literals that can be defined using this datatype are:

This table lists the literals of type xsd:boolean.
Literal Value
<“true”, xsd:boolean> true
<“false”, xsd:boolean> false
<“1”, xsd:boolean> true
<“0”, xsd:boolean> false

5.1 The XML Schema Built-in Datatypes

IRIs of the form http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#xxx, where xxx is the name of a datatype, denote the built-in datatypes defined in XML Schema 1.1 Part 2: Datatypes [XMLSCHEMA11-2]. The XML Schema built-in types listed in the following table are the RDF-compatible XSD types. Their use is RECOMMENDED.

Readers might note that the xsd:hexBinary and xsd:base64Binary datatypes are the only safe datatypes for transferring binary information.

A list of the RDF-compatible XSD types, with short descriptions"
DatatypeValue space (informative)
Core typesxsd:stringCharacter strings (but not all Unicode character strings)
xsd:booleantrue, false
xsd:decimalArbitrary-precision decimal numbers
xsd:integerArbitrary-size integer numbers
IEEE floating-point
xsd:double64-bit floating point numbers incl. ±Inf, ±0, NaN
xsd:float32-bit floating point numbers incl. ±Inf, ±0, NaN
Time and date xsd:dateDates (yyyy-mm-dd) with or without timezone
xsd:timeTimes (hh:mm:ss.sss…) with or without timezone
xsd:dateTimeDate and time with or without timezone
xsd:dateTimeStampDate and time with required timezone
Recurring and
partial dates
xsd:gYearGregorian calendar year
xsd:gMonthGregorian calendar month
xsd:gDayGregorian calendar day of the month
xsd:gYearMonthGregorian calendar year and month
xsd:gMonthDayGregorian calendar month and day
xsd:durationDuration of time
xsd:yearMonthDurationDuration of time (months and years only)
xsd:dayTimeDurationDuration of time (days, hours, minutes, seconds only)
integer numbers
xsd:byte-128…+127 (8 bit)
xsd:short-32768…+32767 (16 bit)
xsd:int-2147483648…+2147483647 (32 bit)
xsd:long-9223372036854775808…+9223372036854775807 (64 bit)
xsd:unsignedByte0…255 (8 bit)
xsd:unsignedShort0…65535 (16 bit)
xsd:unsignedInt0…4294967295 (32 bit)
xsd:unsignedLong0…18446744073709551615 (64 bit)
xsd:positiveIntegerInteger numbers >0
xsd:nonNegativeIntegerInteger numbers ≥0
xsd:negativeIntegerInteger numbers <0
xsd:nonPositiveIntegerInteger numbers ≤0
Encoded binary data xsd:hexBinaryHex-encoded binary data
xsd:base64BinaryBase64-encoded binary data
XSD types
xsd:anyURIAbsolute or relative URIs and IRIs
xsd:languageLanguage tags per [BCP47]
xsd:normalizedStringWhitespace-normalized strings
xsd:tokenTokenized strings
xsd:NameXML Names
xsd:NCNameXML NCNames

The other built-in XML Schema datatypes are unsuitable for various reasons, and SHOULD NOT be used.


5.2 The rdf:HTML Datatype

RDF provides for HTML content as a possible literal value. This allows markup in literal values. Such content is indicated in an RDF graph using a literal whose datatype is a special built-in datatype rdf:HTML. This datatype is defined as follows:

An IRI denoting this datatype
is http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#HTML.
The lexical space
is the set of Unicode [UNICODE] strings.
The value space
is a set of DOM DocumentFragment nodes [DOM4]. Two DocumentFragment nodes A and B are considered equal if and only if the DOM method A.isEqualNode(B) [DOM4] returns true.
The lexical-to-value mapping

Each member of the lexical space is associated with the result of applying the following algorithm:


Any language annotation (lang="…") or XML namespaces (xmlns) desired in the HTML content must be included explicitly in the HTML literal. Relative URLs in attributes such as href do not have a well-defined base URL and are best avoided. RDF applications may use additional equivalence relations, such as that which relates an xsd:string with an rdf:HTML literal corresponding to a single text node of the same string.

5.3 The rdf:XMLLiteral Datatype

RDF provides for XML content as a possible literal value. Such content is indicated in an RDF graph using a literal whose datatype is a special built-in datatype rdf:XMLLiteral, which is defined as follows:

An IRI denoting this datatype
is http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#XMLLiteral.
The lexical space
is the set of all strings which are well-balanced, self-contained XML content [XML10]; and for which embedding between an arbitrary XML start tag and an end tag yields a document conforming to XML Namespaces [XML-NAMES].
The value space
is a set of DOM DocumentFragment nodes [DOM4]. Two DocumentFragment nodes A and B are considered equal if and only if the DOM method A.isEqualNode(B) returns true.
The lexical-to-value mapping

Each member of the lexical space is associated with the result of applying the following algorithm:

The canonical mapping
defines a canonical lexical form [XMLSCHEMA11-2] for each member of the value space. The rdf:XMLLiteral canonical mapping is the exclusive XML canonicalization method (with comments, with empty InclusiveNamespaces PrefixList) [XML-EXC-C14N].

Any XML namespace declarations (xmlns), language annotation (xml:lang) or base URI declarations (xml:base) desired in the XML content must be included explicitly in the XML literal. Note that some concrete RDF syntaxes may define mechanisms for inheriting them from the context (e.g., @parseType="literal" in RDF/XML [RDF-SYNTAX-GRAMMAR]).

5.4 Datatype IRIs

Datatypes are identified by IRIs. If D is a set of IRIs which are used to refer to datatypes, then the elements of D are called recognized datatype IRIs. Recognized IRIs have fixed referents, which MUST satisfy these conditions:

  1. If the IRI http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#XMLLiteral is recognized then it refers to the datatype rdf:XMLLiteral;
  2. If the IRI http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#HTML is recognized then it refers to the datatype rdf:HTML;
  3. If any IRI of the form http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#xxx is recognized then it refers to the RDF-compatible XSD type named xsd:xxx, for every XSD type listed in section 5.1.

Semantic extensions of RDF MAY recognize other datatype IRIs and require them to refer to a fixed datatype.

RDF processors are not required to recognize datatype IRIs. Any literal typed with an unrecognized IRI is treated just like an unknown IRI, i.e. as referring to an unknown thing. Applications MAY give a warning message if they are unable to determine the referent of an IRI used in a typed literal, but they SHOULD NOT reject such RDF as either a syntactic or semantic error.

Other specifications MAY impose additional constraints on datatype IRIs, for example, require support for certain datatypes.


The Web Ontology Language [OWL2-OVERVIEW] offers facilities for formally defining custom datatypes that can be used with RDF. Furthermore, a practice for identifying user-defined simple XML Schema datatypes is suggested in [SWBP-XSCH-DATATYPES]. RDF implementations are not required to support either of these facilities.

6. Fragment Identifiers

This section is non-normative.

RDF uses IRIs, which may include fragment identifiers, as resource identifiers. The semantics of fragment identifiers is defined in RFC 3986 [RFC3986]: They identify a secondary resource that is usually a part of, view of, defined in, or described in the primary resource, and the precise semantics depend on the set of representations that might result from a retrieval action on the primary resource.

This section discusses the handling of fragment identifiers in representations that encode RDF graphs.

In RDF-bearing representations of a primary resource <foo>, the secondary resource identified by a fragment bar is the resource denoted by the full IRI <foo#bar> in the RDF graph. Since IRIs in RDF graphs can denote anything, this can be something external to the representation, or even external to the web.

In this way, the RDF-bearing representation acts as an intermediary between the web-accessible primary resource, and some set of possibly non-web or abstract entities that the RDF graph may describe.

In cases where other specifications constrain the semantics of fragment identifiers in RDF-bearing representations, the encoded RDF graph should use fragment identifiers in a way that is consistent with these constraints. For example, in an HTML+RDFa document [HTML-RDFA], the fragment chapter1 may identify a document section via the semantics of HTML's @name or @id attributes. The IRI <#chapter1> should then be taken to denote that same section in any RDFa-encoded triples within the same document. Similarly, if the @xml:id attribute [XML-ID] is used in an RDF/XML document, then the corresponding IRI should be taken to denote an XML element.

Primary resources may have multiple representations that are made available via content negotiation [WEBARCH]. Fragments in RDF-bearing representations should be used in a way that is consistent with the semantics imposed by any non-RDF representations. For example, if the fragment chapter1 identifies a document section in an HTML representation of the primary resource, then the IRI <#chapter1> should be taken to denote that same section in all RDF-bearing representations of the same primary resource.

7. Generalized RDF Triples, Graphs, and Datasets

This section is non-normative.

It is sometimes convenient to loosen the requirements on RDF triples. For example, the completeness of the RDFS entailment rules is easier to show with a generalization of RDF triples. Note that any users of these generalized notions need to be aware that their use may cause interoperability problems, and that there is no requirement on the part of any RDF tool to accept, process, or produce anything beyond regular RDF triples, graphs, and datasets.

A generalized RDF triple is an RDF triple generalized so that subjects, predicates, and objects are all allowed to be IRIs, blank nodes, or literals. A generalized RDF graph is an RDF graph of generalized RDF triples, i.e., a set of generalized RDF triples. A generalized RDF dataset is an RDF dataset of generalized RDF graphs where graph labels can be IRIs, blank nodes, or literals.

8. Acknowledgments

This section is non-normative.

The RDF 1.1 editors acknowledge valuable contributions from Thomas Baker, Dan Brickley, Gavin Carothers, Jeremy Carroll, Pierre-Antoine Champin, Dan Connolly, Tim Berners-Lee, John Cowan, Martin J. Dürst, Alex Hall, Steve Harris, Pat Hayes, Ivan Herman, Peter F. Patel-Schneider, Addison Phillips, Eric Prud'hommeaux, Andy Seaborne, Leif Halvard Silli, Nathan Rixham, Dominik Tomaszuk and Antoine Zimmermann.

The RDF 2004 editors acknowledge valuable contributions from Frank Manola, Pat Hayes, Dan Brickley, Jos de Roo, Sergey Melnik, Dave Beckett, Patrick Stickler, Peter F. Patel-Schneider, Jerome Euzenat, Massimo Marchiori, Tim Berners-Lee, Dave Reynolds and Dan Connolly.

This specification is a product of extended deliberations by the members of the RDF Working Group. It draws upon two earlier specifications, RDF Model and Syntax, edited by Ora Lassilla and Ralph Swick, and RDF Schema, edited by Dan Brickley and R. V. Guha, which were produced by members of the RDFcore and Schema Working Groups.

A. Changes between RDF 2004 and RDF 1.1

This section is non-normative.

This section discusses changes between the 2004 Recommendation of RDF Concepts and Abstract Syntax and the RDF 1.1 versions of this specification.

Previous versions of RDF used the term “RDF URI Reference” instead of “IRI” and allowed additional characters: “<”, “>”, “{”, “}”, “|”, “\”, “^”, “`”, ‘’ (double quote), and “ ” (space). In IRIs, these characters must be percent-encoded as described in section 2.1 of [RFC3986].

In earlier versions of RDF, literals with a language tag did not have a datatype IRI, and simple literals could appear directly in the abstract syntax. Simple literals and literals with a language tag were collectively known as plain literals.

Earlier versions of RDF permitted language tags that adhered to the generic tag/subtag syntax of language tags, but were not well-formed according to [BCP47]. Such language tags do not conform to RDF 1.1.

The xsd:string datatype does not permit the #x0 character, and implementations might not permit control codes in the #x1-#x1F range. Earlier versions of RDF allowed these characters in simple literals, although they could never be serialized in a W3C-recommended concrete syntax. Currently a literal with type xsd:string containing the #x0 character is an ill-typed literal.

B. Change Log

This section is non-normative.

B.1 Changes from 15 January 2013 WD to this version

This section is non-normative.

This section lists changes from the 15 January 2013 Working Draft (WD) to this Editor's Draft of RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax.

B.2 Changes from 05 June 2012 WD to this version

This section lists changes from the 05 June 2012 Working Draft (WD) to this Editor's Draft of RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax.

B.3 Changes from FPWD to 05 June 2012 WD

This section lists changes from the First Public Working Draft (FPWD) to the 05 June 2012 Working Draft (WD) of RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax.

B.4 Changes from RDF 2004 to FPWD

This section lists changes from the 2004 Recommendation of RDF Concepts and Abstract Syntax to the First Public Working Draft (FPWD) of RDF 1.1 Concepts and Abstract Syntax.

C. References

C.1 Normative references

A. Phillips; M. Davis. Tags for Identifying Languages. September 2009. IETF Best Current Practice. URL: http://tools.ietf.org/html/bcp47
Anne van Kesteren; Aryeh Gregor; Lachlan Hunt; Ms2ger. DOM4. 6 December 2012. W3C Working Draft. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/dom/
Robin Berjon et al. HTML5. 17 December 2012. W3C Candidate Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/
M. Davis, Ken Whistler. TR15, Unicode Normalization Forms.. 17 September 2010, URL: http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr15/
Patrick J. Hayes; Peter F. Patel-Schneider. RDF 1.1 Semantics. 23 July 2013. W3C Last Call Working Draft. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/WD-rdf11-mt-20130723/. The latest edition is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf11-mt/
S. Bradner. Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. March 1997. Internet RFC 2119. URL: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2119.txt
M. Dürst; M. Suignard. Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs). January 2005. RFC. URL: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3987.txt
The Unicode Standard. URL: http://www.unicode.org/versions/latest/
John Boyer; Donald Eastlake; Joseph Reagle. Exclusive XML Canonicalization Version 1.0. 18 July 2002. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml-exc-c14n
Tim Bray; Dave Hollander; Andrew Layman; Richard Tobin; Henry Thompson et al. Namespaces in XML 1.0 (Third Edition). 8 December 2009. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml-names
Tim Bray; Jean Paoli; Michael Sperberg-McQueen; Eve Maler; François Yergeau et al. Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 (Fifth Edition). 26 November 2008. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml
David Peterson; Sandy Gao; Ashok Malhotra; Michael Sperberg-McQueen; Henry Thompson; Paul V. Biron et al. W3C XML Schema Definition Language (XSD) 1.1 Part 2: Datatypes. 5 April 2012. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xmlschema11-2/

C.2 Informative references

Leo Sauermann; Richard Cyganiak. Cool URIs for the Semantic Web. 3 December 2008. W3C Note. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/cooluris
Manu Sporny et al. HTML+RDFa 1.1. 25 May 2011. W3C Working Draft. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-in-html/
Manu Sporny; Gregg Kellogg; Markus Lanthaler. JSON-LD 1.0. 11 April 2013. W3C Working Draft. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/json-ld/
Tim Berners-Lee. Linked Data Design Issues. 27 July 2006. W3C-Internal Document. URL: http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html
Gavin Carothers. N-Triples. 9 April 2013. W3C Working Group Note. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/NOTE-n-triples-20130409/. The latest edition is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/n-triples/
W3C OWL Working Group. OWL 2 Web Ontology Language Document Overview (Second Edition). 11 December 2012. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/owl2-overview/
Patrick Hayes. RDF Semantics. 10 February 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-mt/
Frank Manola; Eric Miller. RDF Primer. 10 February 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-primer/
Dan Brickley; Ramanathan Guha. RDF Vocabulary Description Language 1.0: RDF Schema. 10 February 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-schema
Eric Prud'hommeaux; Andy Seaborne. SPARQL Query Language for RDF. 15 January 2008. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-sparql-query/
Dave Beckett. RDF/XML Syntax Specification (Revised). 10 February 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-syntax-grammar
jan grant; Dave Beckett. RDF Test Cases. 10 February 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-testcases
Ben Adida; Ivan Herman; Manu Sporny; Mark Birbeck. RDFa 1.1 Primer. 7 June 2012. W3C Note. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-primer/
T. Berners-Lee; R. Fielding; L. Masinter. Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax (RFC 3986). January 2005. RFC. URL: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3986.txt
Mark Nottingham; Eran Hammer-Lahav. Defining Well-Known Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) (RFC 5785). April 2010. RFC. URL: http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc5785.txt
Natasha Noy; Alan Rector. Defining N-ary Relations on the Semantic Web. 12 April 2006. W3C Note. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/swbp-n-aryRelations
Jeremy Carroll; Jeff Pan. XML Schema Datatypes in RDF and OWL. 14 March 2006. W3C Note. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/swbp-xsch-datatypes
Eric Prud'hommeaux, Gavin Carothers. Turtle; Terse RDF Triple Language 19 February 2013. W3C Candidate Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/CR-turtle-20130219/. The latest edition is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/turtle/
Ian Jacobs; Norman Walsh. Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One. 15 December 2004. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/
Jonathan Marsh; Daniel Veillard; Norman Walsh. xml:id Version 1.0. 9 September 2005. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml-id/
Sandy Gao; Michael Sperberg-McQueen; Henry Thompson; Noah Mendelsohn; David Beech; Murray Maloney. W3C XML Schema Definition Language (XSD) 1.1 Part 1: Structures. 5 April 2012. W3C Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/xmlschema11-1/
Dave Reynolds. The Organization Ontology. 25 June 2013. W3C Candidate Recommendation. URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/vocab-org/