Ontology, Metadata, and Semiotics

  • John F. Sowa
Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/10722280_5

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1867)
Cite this paper as:
Sowa J.F. (2000) Ontology, Metadata, and Semiotics. In: Ganter B., Mineau G.W. (eds) Conceptual Structures: Logical, Linguistic, and Computational Issues. ICCS-ConceptStruct 2000. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 1867. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg


The Internet is a giant semiotic system. It is a massive collection of Peirce’s three kinds of signs: icons, which show the form of something; indices, which point to something; and symbols, which represent something according to some convention. But current proposals for ontologies and metadata have overlooked some of the most important features of signs. A sign has three aspects: it is (1) an entity that represents (2) another entity to (3) an agent. By looking only at the signs themselves, some metadata proposals have lost sight of the entities they represent and the agents – human, animal, or robot – which interpret them. With its three branches of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, semiotics provides guidelines for organizing and using signs to represent something to someone for some purpose. Besides representation, semiotics also supports methods for translating patterns of signs intended for one purpose to other patterns intended for different but related purposes. This article shows how the fundamental semiotic primitives are represented in semantically equivalent notations for logic, including controlled natural languages and various computer languages.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Sowa

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