Friday, October 3, 2008

Defining terms and glossaries for domains and projects

I am going to leap ahead and start to conceptualize some semantic building blocks that are useful for acronyms, terms, glossaries and other foundation concepts.

My starting set of core concepts are roughly:

  • Term - a single word or phrase that has a particular meaning. This may be a single term (one word or two or more hyphen-separated words) or a compound term (two or more words or hyphen-separated words.)
  • Glossary - a collection of terms relevant to a particular project or domain.
  • Domain - a field of study or area of interest. Multiple domains may overlap or intersect (ala a Venn diagram)
  • Project - a collection of subsets of domains that are under study for some purpose.
  • Abbreviation - a shortened or shorthand form of a term.
  • Acronym - a stylized abbreviation for one or more compounds term that utilizes a sequence of the initial letters or abbreviations for the individual terms of which it is composed.

A glossary may contain actual term definitions or references to terms that are defined in anothe XML resource document by themselves of within another glossary. In its simplest form, a glossary would simply be a list of term references or pointers to externally-defined terms.

Glossaries should also be nestable so that a glossary can incorporate existing glossaries in their entirety.

A glossary would be associated with zero or more domains that may or may not overlap or intersect. For example, my software_agent glossary might list the domains software_agent_technology, computing, software, and distributed_processing.

One open question is the relationship between a glossary and a vocabilary. My current thinking is that a glossary is simply a subset of terms of interest in some project or a sub-field of a domain or even of interest to an individual. A vocabulary for a domain would consist of the universe of terms that are relevant for that domain, regardless of whether those terms are collected into one or more glossaries or exist as discrete XML resources not contained in glossaries. A vocabulary may be more of a computed collection whereas a glossary might be hand-crafted for its intended specific project.

One important nuance is that sometimes an existing term is mostly relevant but needs some modification to be more completely relevant for the domain of a glossary or to simplify and customize it to be more relevant to a project or domain. In such cases we want a local override definition for the term plus a reference to one or more existing term definitions upon which the term is based or from which it is synthesized.

-- Jack Krupansky


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