Knowledge and Information Systems

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 249–283 | Cite as

A knowledge encapsulation approach to ontology modularization

  • Faezeh Ensan
  • Weichang Du
Regular Paper


The development of monolithic ontologies for complex domains may face various challenges in reasoning and implementation. The notion of modularity can be employed for developing more efficient ontologies, especially in distributed environments. In this paper, we introduce a framework for developing ontologies in a modular manner. We describe the interface-based modular ontology formalism, (IBF), which theoretically supports the framework. The main feature of the framework is its support for knowledge encapsulation, i.e., it allows ontologies to define their main content using well-defined interfaces, such that their knowledge bases can only be accessed by other ontologies through these interfaces. An important implication of the proposed framework is that ontology modules can be developed completely independent of each other’s signature and languages. Such modules are free to only utilize the required knowledge segments of the others. We also investigate the issues of inconsistency in the proposed modular ontology framework. We provide solutions for isolating inconsistent ontology modules from the other parts of a modular ontology and also resolve inconsistencies which may be arisen by integrating consistent knowledge bases.


Ontology Semantic Web Modularization Modular ontology Description logics Encapsulation 


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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Computer ScienceUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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