ONTOLOGY LEARNING and the HUMANITIES

ONTOLOGY LEARNING and the HUMANITIES

Toby Burrows (University of Western Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-625-1.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter reviews the current state of play in the use of ontologies in the humanities, with best-practice examples from selected disciplines. It looks at the specific domain problems faced by the humanities, and examines the various approaches currently being employed to construct, maintain, and develop humanities ontologies. The application of ontology learning in the humanities is discussed by reviewing a range of research projects in different disciplines. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the future potential of ontology learning in the humanities, and an attempt to set out a research agenda for this field.
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Introduction

The humanities are academic disciplines which study the nature of human life and experience. They are different from the natural and social sciences because they use methods which are mainly analytical, critical, or speculative. There are various different definitions of the scope of the humanities. According to the Australian Academy of the Humanities they cover the following disciplines: Archaeology; Asian Studies; Classical Studies; English; European Languages and Cultures; History; Linguistics; Philosophy, Religion and the History of Ideas; Cultural and Communication Studies; the Arts.1

Ontological frameworks are central to the work of humanities researchers. This is because most humanities research involves either the analysis and definition of concepts or the categorization of individual phenomena into broader classes. Philosophy is the pre-eminent academic discipline which focuses on concepts, while the focus of the disciplines of history and archaeology is largely on the categorization of specific instances (people, places, events, objects and so on). Other humanities disciplines rely on a mixture of these two approaches.

This paper reviews the current state of play in the use of ontologies in the humanities, with best-practice examples from selected disciplines. It looks at the specific domain problems faced by the humanities, and examines the various approaches currently being employed to construct, maintain and develop ontologies.

The application of ontology learning in the humanities is also examined, by reviewing a range of research projects in different disciplines. Areas discussed include the availability of text corpora and other sources of knowledge, and the use of text mining techniques and tools. The standards and tools used for expressing and developing ontologies are also covered.

The paper concludes with an assessment of the future potential of ontology learning in the humanities, and an attempt to set out a research agenda for this field. It also aims to identify areas where ontology learning is likely to prove most valuable and applicable.

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