Where Temporal Description Logics Fail: Representing Temporally-Changing Relationships

Hans-Ulrich Krieger

In: Andreas Dengel , K. Berns , Thomas Breuel , Frank Bomarius , Thomas Roth-Berghofer (editor). KI 2008: Advances in Artificial Intelligence. German Conference on Artificial Intelligence (KI-2008) 31st September 23-26 Kaiserslautern Pages 249-257 Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence (LNAI) 5243 ISBN 978-3-540-85844-7 Springer Berlin 2008.


Representing temporally-changing information becomes increasingly important for reasoning & query services defined on top of RDF and OWL, and for the Semantic Web/Web 2.0 in general. Extending binary OWL properties or RDF triples with a further temporal argument either lead to additional objects or to reification, as Welty et al. (2005) have shown. We argue that temporal description logics (Lutz, 2004) are not able to represent temporally-changing information, since they are geared towards synchronic relationships, not diachronic ones. In this paper, we critically discuss several well-known approaches as presented in Welty et al. (2005), add a new one, and finally reinterpret the OWL encoding of the 4D/perdurantist view. The reinterpretation has several advantages and requires no rewriting of an ontology that lacks a treatment of time. We also suggest that practical OWL reasoning should support means for temporal annotation of ABox relation instances. The work discussed in this paper has been carried out in an EU-funded project called MUSING ( and has been successfully applied to the PROTON upper-level ontology by equipping it with a concept of time and for representing temporally-changing relationships in MUSING.

German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz