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PII: S0169-023X(99)00021-X Formal ontology for subject Christopher A. Welty *, Jessica Jenkins Computer Science Department, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0462, USA Received 2 June 1999; accepted 3 June 1999 Abstract Subject-based classification is an important part of information retrieval, and has a long history in libraries, where a subject taxonomy was used to determine the location of books on the shelves. We have been studying the notion of subject itself, in order to determine a formal ontology of subjects for a large-scale digital library card catalog system. Deep analysis reveals a lot of ambiguity regarding the usage of subjects in existing systems and terminology, and we attempt to formalize these notions into a single framework for representing it. Ó 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Subject-based classification; Digital libraries; Description logics; Card catalog system; Formal ontology 1. Introduction There can be no argument that the wealth of information now available on-line has created numerous problems for information retrieval. One consequence of the information age is the promise of Digital Libraries, with on-line access not just to library catalogs, but to the documents themselves. Furthermore, progress in the text encoding community o ers the potential for sig- nificant amounts of these documents to exist in some marked-up form (see, for example the TEI [30], the CES [22], the MEP [8], and the WWP [13]). Having information about the content of a document readily available in a machine-readable format may seem to imply the ability to do document retrieval based on this content information; the community, however, has yet to deliver tools that exploit the markup in a manner that justifies the e ort required to create the documents [22]. We have been performing ontological analysis in the domain of library catalog systems as part of a project endeavoring to address this problem. Many aspects of the library ontology pr

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