Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 333–356

Some Remarks on the Semantics of FIPA's Agent Communication Language

  • Jeremy Pitt
  • Abe Mamdani

DOI: 10.1023/A:1010016503852

Cite this article as:
Pitt, J. & Mamdani, A. Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems (1999) 2: 333. doi:10.1023/A:1010016503852


The Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents (FIPA) standardisation body has produced a set of specifications outlining a generic model for the architecture and operation of agent-based systems. The FIPA'97 Specification Part 2 is the normative specification of an Agent Communication Language (ACL) which agents use to ‘talk’ to each other. The FIPA ACL is based on speech act theory. Its syntax is defined by performatives parameterised by attribute value pairs, while its semantics is given in terms of the mental states of the communicating agents (i.e. intentionality). However, it is not clear if the formal semantics is meant as a normative or informative specification. The primary purpose of this paper is then to give an expository analysis of the FIPA ACL semantics to clarify this situation. We also offer some guidelines motivated from our own analysis, experience and understanding of how the semantic definitions and logical axioms should be interpreted and applied. However, our conclusion is that while the FIPA ACL specification offers significant potential to a developer using it for guidance, there are limitations on using an agent's mental state to specify the meaning of a performative as part of a normative standard. We consider some possibilities for making improvements in this direction.

agent communication languages semantics standards FIPA 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Pitt
    • 1
  • Abe Mamdani
    • 1
  1. 1.Intelligent & Interactive Systems Group, Department of Electrical & Electronic EngineeringImperial College of Science Technology and MedicineEngland

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