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as the ability of two or more systems/components to exchange and share information
by marking up data in a similar fashion (e.g. using the extensible markup
language, XML). Structural interoperability means that the systems/components
share semantic schemas (data models) that enable them to exchange and structure
information (e.g. using the resource description framework, RDF). Semantic
interoperability is the ability of systems/components to share and understand
information at the level of formally defined and mutually accepted domain
concepts. Semantic interoperability requires the correct interpretation and mutual
understanding of all exchanged information. In order to obtain mutual understanding
of exchanged information, the actors have to share a model of what the data stand
for. Semantic interoperability is about how to achieve such mutual understanding
(Sølvberg 1998) .
One of the earliest theories dealing with understanding and remedies for
misunderstanding is Richards's “Meaning of Meaning” theory (Ogden and
Richards 1923) . Instead of focusing on the information that is communicated,
Richards wanted to study the meaning of the words. He felt that understanding is
the main goal of communication and communication problems result from
misunderstanding. One of the ideas behind the Meaning of Meaning Theory is
“The Proper Meaning Superstition” (Ogden and Richards 1923) . This is the belief
that every word has an exact meaning. Richards says that the Proper Meaning
Superstition is false because words mean different things to different people in
different situations. This misunderstanding causes problems when two people
believe they are talking about the same thing, but actually talk about different things.
Another concept that Richards uses is the idea of signs and symbols in commu-
nication. Words are examples of such symbols. Symbols have no natural connection
with the things they describe (Griffen 1997) . Words are symbols of something
because they have been given meaning. But very often words mean one thing in a
certain context and mean another thing in a different context. This is why it is so
important to study the context to get a better understanding of the meaning.
To come to this better understanding, Richards invented the Semantic Triangle
(Fig. 9.1 ). This triangle shows the relationship between symbols and their referent.
Thought or reference
Stands for
(an imputed relation)
Fig. 9.1 Semantic triangle by Richards (Ogden and Richards 1923)
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