A type-theoretical approach for ontologies: The case of roles

Applied Ontology 7 (3):311-356 (2012)
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In the domain of ontology design as well as in Knowledge Representation, modeling universals is a challenging problem.Most approaches that have addressed this problem rely on Description Logics (DLs) but many difficulties remain, due to under-constrained representation which reduces the inferences that can be drawn and further causes problems in expressiveness. In mathematical logic and program checking, type theories have proved to be appealing but, so far they have not been applied in the formalization of ontologies. To bridge this gap, we present in this paper a theory for representing ontologies in a dependently typed framework which relies on strong formal foundations including both a constructive logic and a functional type system. The language of this theory defines in a precise way what ontological primitives such as classes, relations, properties, etc., and thereof roles, are. The first part of the paper details how these primitives are defined and used within the theory. In a second part, we focus on the formalization of the role primitive. A review of significant role properties leads to the specification of a role profile and most of the remaining work details through numerous examples, how the proposed theory is able to fully satisfy this profile. It is demonstrated that dependent types can model several non-trivial aspects of roles including a formal solution for generalization hierarchies, identity criteria for roles and other contributions. A discussion is given on how the theory is able to cope with many of the constraints inherent in a good role representation.
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