Chapter 26. Agreeing to Disagree about Semantics

In This Chapter

  • Defining semantics in computer science

  • Anticipating the Semantic Web

  • Using semantics in data warehousing

  • Preparing for the semantic wave

In researching how best to present the topic of semantics, I searched many areas on the Web, including sites such as Wikipedia ( and the World Wide Web Consortium ( The concept of the Semantic Web is one with deep technical roots, but in its simplest sense, it's making the Web as easy to navigate for applications as it is for you and me (humans). You know to go to Google and search for the Finnish word for "monkey" — a computer cannot accomplish the same task without direction from you or me.

Defining Semantics

Semantics is the study of meaning in communication, including the meaning (or an interpretation of the meaning) of a word, sign, or sentence. How many times in the middle of an argument have you heard the phrase, "Let's not argue about semantics"? Linguists and semanticists have been dealing with semantics for a long time. However, in the world of computer science, semantics are relatively new.

In May 2001, Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila authored an article in the magazine Scientific American titled "The Semantic Web." You can find the article here:

In the final line of this article, the authors state that the Semantic Web will open up the knowledge and workings of mankind to software agents ...

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