Are names meaningful? Quantifying social meaning on the semantic web

Steven de Rooij, Wouter Beek, Peter Bloem, Frank van Harmelen, Stefan Schlobach

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


According to its model-theoretic semantics, Semantic Web IRIs are individual constants or predicate letters whose names are chosen arbitrarily and carry no formal meaning. At the same time it is a well-known aspect of Semantic Web pragmatics that IRIs are often constructed mnemonically, in order to be meaningful to a human interpreter. The latter has traditionally been termed ‘social meaning’, a concept that has been discussed but not yet quantitatively studied by the Semantic Web community. In this paper we use measures of mutual information content and methods from statistical model learning to quantify the meaning that is (at least) encoded in Semantic Web names. We implement the approach and evaluate it over hundreds of thousands of datasets in order to illustrate its efficacy. Our experiments confirm that many Semantic Web names are indeed meaningful and, more interestingly, we provide a quantitative lower bound on how much meaning is encoded in names on a per-dataset basis. To our knowledge, this is the first paper about the interaction between social and formal meaning, as well as the first paper that uses statistical model learning as a method to quantify meaning in the Semantic Web context. These insights are useful for the design of a new generation of Semantic Web tools that take such social meaning into account.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Semantic Web - 15th International Semantic Web Conference, ISWC 2016, Proceedings
Number of pages16
Volume9981 LNCS
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-46522-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event15th International Semantic Web Conference, ISWC 2016 - Kobe, Japan
Duration: 17 Oct 201621 Oct 2016

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume9981 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference15th International Semantic Web Conference, ISWC 2016


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