Meaning and Links

  • William A. Woods


This article presents some fundamental ideas about representing knowledge and dealing with meaning in computer representations. I will describe the issues as I currently understand them and describe how they came about, how they fit together, what problems they solve, and some of the things that the resulting framework can do. The ideas apply not just to graph-structured "node-and-link" representations, sometimes called semantic networks, but also to representations referred to variously as frames with slots, entities with relationships, objects with attributes, tables with columns, and records with fields and to the classes and variables of object-oriented data structures. I will start by describing some background experiences and thoughts that preceded the writing of my 1975 paper, "What's in a Link," which introduced many of these issues. After that, I will present some of the key ideas from that paper with a discussion of how some of those ideas have matured since then. Finally, I will describe some practical applications of these ideas in the context of knowledge access and information retrieval and will conclude with some thoughts about where I think we can go from here.