The understandability of OWL statements in controlled English

Tobias Kuhn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Different kinds of controlled natural language (CNL) have been proposed as a front-end for Semantic Web systems, in order to make them more accessible to users with no background in formal notations and methods. This paper investigates whether OWL statements in CNL are indeed easier to understand than in other notations. To this aim, an experiment with 64 participants was conducted that compares a controlled natural language to a classical OWL notation. Concretely, Attempto Controlled English was compared to a simplified version of the Manchester OWL Syntax. For a reliable and tool-independent evaluation of understandability, the experiment is based on a novel evaluation framework making use of simple and intuitive diagrams. The results show that CNL is easier to understand, needs less learning time, and is more accepted by its users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalSemantic Web
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Attempto Controlled English (ACE)
  • Controlled natural language
  • Understandability
  • User experiment
  • Web Ontology Language (OWL)


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