Languages for aboutness
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Languages for aboutness. Indexing languages: Terminological tools Thesauri (CV – controlled vocabulary) Subject headings lists (CV) Authority files for named entities (people, places, structures, organizations) Classification Keyword lists Natural language systems (broad interpretation).

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Languages for aboutness
Languages for aboutness

  • Indexing languages:

    • Terminological tools

      • Thesauri (CV – controlled vocabulary)

      • Subject headings lists (CV)

      • Authority files for named entities (people, places, structures, organizations)

    • Classification

    • Keyword lists

    • Natural language systems (broad interpretation)

Subject analysis
Subject Analysis

  • What something is about?

    • What the content of an object is “about”?

  • Different methods (Wilson, 1968)

    • Counting (objective method)

    • Purposive method

    • Method appealing to unity

    • What stands out

  • Challenges

    • Non-text

Aboutness how to do it
Aboutness: How to do it!

  • Read the document [Intellectual reading]

    • look for key features

    • many indexers mark up the items

    • rarely have time to read the whole document

  • Determine aboutness [Conceptual analysis]

  • Translate aboutness into the vocabulary or scheme you are using

    • In general: Subject headings: 1-3 headings

    • Descriptors, 5-8 descriptors

    • Classification: 1 notation (should it only be one!?).

Features of indexing languages
Features of indexing languages:

  • Involve rules and require maintenance

  • Can be generated via automatic, human, or auto-human processes

  • Different processes generally display different strengths and weaknesses.

Features of indexing languages1
Features of indexing languages:

  • With the exception of a few general domain tools, they are generally domain specific.

    • MeSH

    • NASA Thesaurus

    • Astronomy Thesaurus

    • ERIC thesaurus

  • Concepts (or concept representations) are arranged in a discernable order

Language schema designs
Language schema designs

  • Classified--grouping

    • Hierarchies and facets

      MeSH Browser

      Art and Architecture (Getty AAT)

  • Alphabetical -- horizontal

    • Verbal/Alphabetical (ordering/filing challenges)

Controlled vocabulary
Controlled Vocabulary

  • A list or a database of subject terms in which each concept has a preferred terms or phrase that will be used to represent it in the retrieval tool; the terms not used have references (syndetic structure), and often scope notes.

Thesaurus structured thesaurus
Thesaurus (structured thesaurus)

  • Lexical semantic relationships

  • Composed of indexing terms/descriptors

  • Descriptors = representations of concepts

  • Concepts = Units of meaning (Svenonius)


  • Preferred terms

  • Non-preferred terms

  • Semantic relations between terms

  • How to apply terms (guidelines, rules)

  • Scope notes

  • Adding terms (How to produce terms that are not listed explicitly in the thesaurus)

Preferred terms
Preferred Terms

  • Control form of the term

    • Spelling, grammatical form

    • Theatre / Theater

    • MLA / Modern language association

  • Choose preferred term between synonyms

    • Brain cancer or Brain Neoplasms?

  • Common thesaural identifiers
    Common thesaural identifiers

    • SN Scope Note

      • Instruction, e.g. don’t invert phrases

    • USE Use (another term in preference to this one)

    • UF Used For

    • BT Broader Term

    • NT Narrower Term

    • RT Related Term

    Semantic relationships
    Semantic Relationships

    • Hierarchy

    • Equivalence

    • Association

    Hierarchies of meaning
    Hierarchies of Meaning

    ‘Beer Glass’

    ‘White wine glass’


    ‘Wine Glass’

    ‘Red wine glass’

    From: Controlled Vocabularies/ Paul Miller Interoperability Focus UKOLN


    • Level of generality – both preferred terms

    • BT (broader term)

      • Robins BT Birds

    • NT (narrower term)

      • Birds NT Robins

      • Inheritance, very specific rules


    • When two or more terms represent the same concept

    • One is the preferred term (descriptor), where all the information is collected

    • The other is the non-preferred and helps the user to find the appropriate term


    • Non-preferred term USE Preferred term

      • Nuclear Power USE Nuclear Energy

      • Periodicals USE Serials

    • Preferred term UF (used for) Non-preferred term

      • Nuclear Energy UF Nuclear Power

      • Serials UF Periodicals


    • One preferred term is related to another preferred term

    • Non-hierarchical

    • “See also” function

    • In any large thesaurus, a significant umber of terms will mean similar things or cover related areas, without necessarily being synonyms or fitting into a defined hierarchy


    • Related Terms (RT) can be used to show these links within the thesaurus

      • Bed RT Bedding

      • Paint Brushes RT Painting

      • Vandalism RT Hostility

      • Programming RT Software

    Thesauri guides
    Thesauri Guides

    • National Information Standards Organization. (1993). Guidelines for the construction, format, and management of monolingual thesauri. ANSI/NISO Z39.19-1993. Bethesda, MD: NISO Press.[SILS reference Z695.N36 1994 or]

    • Aitchison, Jean & Gilchirist, Alan. Thesaurus Construction: A Practical Guide. 3rd ed. London: Aslib, 1997.

    • Willpower Information Management Consultants

    Thesauri directory
    Thesauri Directory

    • Indexing Resources on the WWW


      • -- explore ASIST Thesaurus

    • Controlled vocabularies


    • Web Compendium


    Languages for aboutness


    Created according to standards

    Z39.19 (Ansi)

    Single termconcepts/postcoordination

    “Wireless network” & “home computer”

    “Terrorism” “Attacks” & “United States”

    More popular in the online environment

    Lend to recall

    Lend to multilingual environment

    Subject Heading Lists

    Rules and guidelines



    “Wireless home computer network”

    $y Terrorism attacks $z United States


    Lend to precision