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Department of Informatics DDIS

Talking to the Semantic Web

Talking to the Semantic Web: Query Interfaces to Ontologies for the Rest of Us

The Semantic Web presents the vision of a distributed, dynamically growing knowledge base founded on formal logic. Common users, however, seem to have problems even with logic and formal query languages. So how can we help users to query a web of logic that they do not seem to understand?

An often proposed solution to address this problem is the use of natural language for knowledge specification and querying. The development of Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools, however, requires computationally intensive algorithms relying on large amounts of background knowledge making the tools highly domain-dependent and virtually inapplicable to new domains or applications.

To that end we have implemented five natural language interfaces:

Ginseng and SWAT allow users to formulate queries in a restricted, controlled query language akin to full English. We have shown that these kinds of interfaces are simple to use and provide superior retrieval performance to traditional logic-based approaches when used by a casual user.

We also developed two domain-independent full natural language interfaces: Querix and NLP-Reduce. Both approaches are simple and do not use any complex semantic-based technologies. They are, therefore, completely portable and domain-independent.

Additionally, we designed  Semantic Crystal - an interface that features a graphically displayed, clickable formal query language. The main advantages for users are that they can view the graphically displayed knowledge base they are querying and assemble queries by clicking on the elements in the graph.

Abraham Bernstein Giving a Talk at Google on the Project

Abraham Bernstein gave a Google Tech Talk in Zurich on the subject "Making the Semantic Web Accessible to the Casual User" on June 26, 2008. You can watch it below or at:

Esther Kaufmann giving talk at ISWC 2007

Esther Kaufmann Giving Talk about the Project at ISWC 2007

How Useful are Natural Language Interfaces to the Semantic Web for Casual End-users?

Esther Kaufmann

The DDIS research project Talking to the Semantic Web and various research projects of the Department of Informatics are reported in the Unipublic Magazin: Recht und Wirtschaft 2008. See "The biggest state" in der Suchmaschine.

CASHdaily Article about DDIS Research Project

CASHdaily publishes an article about the DDIS research project Talking to the Semantic Web on January 16, 2008. See pages 1 and 6 of the newspaper.

The research project Talking to the Semantic Web is featured in the Unireport 2007, the annual scientific report of the University of Zurich presenting excellent research projects. See pages 12 and 13 of the report.

Important note about the Querix name

"Querix" is a registered trademark of Querix (UK) Ltd. ( The above mentioned tool/interface/publication named "Querix" was elaborated independent from Querix (UK) Ltd.

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