A Logical Framework for Modularity of Ontologies

Bernardo Cuenca Grau, Ian Horrocks, Yevgeny Kazakov, Ulrike Sattler

Modularity is a key requirement for collaborative ontology engineering and for distributed ontology reuse on the Web. Modern ontology languages, such as OWL, are logic-based, and thus a useful notion of modularity needs to take the semantics of ontologies and their implications into account. We propose a logic-based notion of modularity that allows the modeler to specify the external signature of their ontology, whose symbols are assumed to be defined in some other ontology. We define two restrictions on the usage of the external signature, a syntactic and a slightly less restrictive, semantic one, each of which is decidable and guarantees a certain kind of "black-box" behavior, which enables the controlled merging of ontologies. Analysis of real-world ontologies suggests that these restrictions are not too onerous.