In the Semantic Web, a metaclass is a class whose instances are classes. Metaclasses are supported in the ontology language OWL and the data-modeling vocabulary RDFS. Similar to their role in programming languages, metaclasses in Semantic Web languages can have properties otherwise applicable only to individuals, while retaining the same class's ability to be classified in a concept hierarchy. This enables knowledge about instances of those metaclasses to be inferred by semantic reasoners using statements made in the metaclass. Metaclasses thus enhance the expressivity of knowledge representations in a way that can be intuitive for users. While classes are suitable to represent a population of individuals, metaclasses can, as one of their feature, be used to represent the conceptual dimension of an ontology.[1]

Metaclasses are often modeled by setting them as the object of claims involving rdf:type and rdfs:subClassOf—built-in properties commonly referred to as instance of and subclass of. Instance of entails that the subject of the claim is an instance, i.e. an individual that is a member of a class. Subclass of entails that the subject is a class. In the context of instance of and subclass of, ordinary can be are the object of instance of claims used on a class, but ordinary classes are not. (where in a claim Bob instance of Human, Bob is the subject, and Human the object).

OWL 2 DL supports metaclasses by a feature called punning,[2] in which one entity is interpreted as two different types of thing—a class and an individual—depending on its syntactic context. For example, through punning, an ontology could have a concept hierarchy such as Harry the eagle instance of golden eagle, golden eagle subclass of bird, and golden eagle instance of species. In this case, the punned entity would be golden eagle, because it is represented as a class (second claim) and an instance (third claim); whereas the metaclass would be species, as it has an instance that is a class. Punning also enables other properties that would otherwise be applicable only to ordinary instances to be used directly on classes, for example "golden eagle conservation status least concern."

« Punning »

A quote saved on July 21, 2016.


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