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Created: December 01, 2003.
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ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 Publishes Topic Map Query Language (TMQL) Requirements.

A posting from Lars Marius Garshol announces the publication of a new draft version of TMQL Requirements, defining informal requirements and feature lists for the upcoming ISO standard TMQL (Topic Map Query Language, ISO/IEC 18048). This language "is intended to be a kind of SQL (or XML Query) for topic maps, and will greatly simplify topic map application development by making it much easier to extract information from topic maps." TMQL is being developed by SC34 in connection with TMCL (ISO 19756: Topic Maps Constraint Language) and the multi-part standard ISO/IEC 13250: Topic Maps.

The updated TMQL Version 1.2.0 draft supersedes the August 2003 draft version 1.0.0. ISO/IEC 13250-2 (Topic Maps Data Model) defines the abstract structure of topic maps and provides the foundation for TMQL. The revised TMQL requirements draft "reflects the intentions of the Topic Map community regarding a Topic Map retrieval and manipulation language, and contains the consolidated view of the standards editors. It defines the requirements for the TMQL standard as a whole, and for the query aspect of TMQL in particular; additional requirements for the update part of TMQL will be detailed at a later stage."

SC34/WG3 ('Information Association') will be meeting for standards work December 6-8, 2003 in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Special attention is being given to the Topic Map specifications, including the ISO 13250 Roadmap and Primer, XTM (XTM Syntax and Specification), TMDM ( Topic Map Data Model), TMCL, Canonical XTM, TMQL, and the Topic Map Reference Model.

Bibliographic Information

TMQL Requirements Version 1.2.0. Topic Map Query Language. By Lars Marius Garshol and Robert Barta (JTC1/SC34). Date: 2003-11-07. ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34. Information Technology -- Document Description and Processing Languages. Produced within ISO Project 13250 (Project editors: Steven R. Newcomb, Michel Biezunski, Martin Bryan). Document Reference: ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 N0448. Draft for review and comment. Supersedes: ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 N0249 (TMQL 1.0.0, 2001-08-09) and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 N0227 (TMQL 0.8.2, 2001-06-12).

Table of Contents

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Query Environment
  • 3 Requirements on the Language Definition Document
    • 3.1 Relationship to other standards
    • 3.2 Structure
    • 3.3 Syntax
    • 3.4 Semantics
  • 4 Requirements for the Language
    • 4.1 Functionality
    • 4.2 Input
    • 4.3 Result sets
    • 4.4 Usability
    • 4.5 Implementation
  • 5 Non-requirements
  • Appendices
    • A References (Non-Normative)
    • B Acknowledgements (Non-Normative)
    • C Revision history (Non-Normative)

Requirements Overview

The purpose of the TMQL Requirements document "is to be as explicit as possible about the form and functionality of a Topic Map query language without preempting the discussion process on how particular objectives, goals, and requirements can be achieved. This is regarded as the most effective way to solicit more specific comments from the community.

While striving for a maximum of expliciteness, some of the requirements are only implicitly specified through other requirements. In this light the document should not be read as a fully formalized requirements document. Instead, feedback on this document is requested, especially as the targeted lifetime of TMQL related technologies is projected to be at least 15 to 20 years.

The document is organized as follows: after some editorial definitions we will define some basic concepts for querying which we will use throughout the rest of the document. These set the stage for requirements of the standardization document and on requirements regarding the language itself..." [from the Introduction]

TMQL Rationale

Topic Maps could be seen as a new 'data base' approach for knowledge bases. Relational databases use SQL as standardized interface between applications implementing the business logic and the database containing the relational data. The Topic Map community sees the need for a Topic Map query language addressing the equivalent purpose... ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 recognized this need and started the new standards initiative TMQL -- Topic Map Query Language in May 2001.

The need for a Topic Map query language is obvious; it is questioned by some people if such a query language could/should be embedded or seen as an extension to existing query languages like SQL or XQuery. But neither SQL nor XQuery provide an ideal solution for TMQL. SQL is able to query RDBMS but Topic Map software might neither store Topic Map data in tables nor can SQL statements as they are query the graph-like Topic Map data structures, which could only be covered by e.g., stored procedures. XQuery is optimised to work on the XML tree but Topic Maps are arbitrary graphs with well defined processing (e.g., merging)..." [from the TMQL home page]

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