Language tutorial

Published by:Ontopia


This document is a tutorial introduction to the tolog topic map query language. It explains how to use all the features of the language, as defined in version 1.2.

Table of contents

1. Introduction

tolog is a language for querying and updating topic maps, inspired by Datalog (a subset of Prolog) and SQL. Using tolog one can query a topic map in much the same way as a relational database can be queried with SQL. It is possible to ask for all topics of a particular types, the names of all topics of a particular type in a particular scope, for all topics used as association role types, for all associations with more than two roles, and so on.

This tutorial will walk the reader through the use of tolog step by step, and by the end of it all of tolog will have been covered.

1.1. Predicates and variables

tolog is a logic-based query language, which means that the basic operation is for the user to ask tolog in which cases a certain assertion holds true, and tolog will then respond with all the sets of values that make the assertion true.

Assertions in tolog consist of predicates, which are relationships between sets of values. A predicate can be thought of as a table of all the sets of values that make it true, and querying is done by matching the query against the table, returning all sets of values that match.

One tolog predicate is the one known as instance-of, which is used to query the topic instance-topic type relationship. One query using this predicate might be:

instance-of($TOPIC, $TYPE)?

In this query there is only one predicate, and that has variables being passed as both of its parameters. This means that we want all combinations of values for these variables that make the assertion true. That is, we want all combinations of (topic, topic type) that are found in the topic map. If we ran this query against opera.ltm we might get a result like the following.

Table 1.1. All topics and types

RAITV company
Teatro Nuovoorganization
Casinò di San Remoorganization
Imperial Operaorganization
Teatro La Pariolaorganization

This shows all topics that have a type, and for each topic, all of its types (which is why RAI appears twice; it is an instance of two types). The actual table of results is several hundred lines long.

Now, let's say we want to find all instances of the type theatre. Recall that the previous query was as shown below.

instance-of($TOPIC, $TYPE)?

This gave us all (topic, type) combinations because we had variables as both parameters. In this case we don't want all possible types, we just want the theatre, so we replace the variable by that particular type. This gives us the query below.

instance-of($TOPIC, theatre)?

Now we are asking for all values of TOPIC that would make the above true; that is, we are asking for all instances of theatre.

Table 1.2. All theatres

Teatro Massimo
Teatro Bellini
Teatro San Carlo
Teatro La Pariola
Académie Royale de Musique
Teatro Pagliano

Similarly, should we want to know all types of which a topic is an instance we can replace the TOPIC variable with a topic reference, and put in a variable as the second parameter, as shown below.

instance-of(teatro-massimo, $TYPE)?

When run, this query gives the following results.

Table 1.3. All types of which Teatro Massimo is an instance


We get 'Theatre', as expected, but also 'Organization', which may be somewhat surprising. In the topic map the only type given for Teatro Massimo is theatre, so what is organization doing here? The answer is that organization is defined as a supertype of theatre in the topic map. This means that any instance of theatre is also an instance of organization. tolog knows this and makes use of the information to make Teatro Massimo an instance of both types.

You should now be familiar with what a predicate is and what a variables. From this point on we'll look at how to combine predicates in more complex ways, more types of predicates, and also some ways of processing the results of query.

1.2. Dynamic association predicates

As we said above, a predicate represents a relationship, and because of this tolog allows topic map associations to be treated as predicates. In this case the name of the predicate is the name of the association type, and the values are the topics playing roles in associations of this type. Given this we might expect to be able to write the following query to find all operas composed by Puccini.

composed-by(puccini, $OPERA)?

However, this results in an error, because the tolog engine is not able to work out which association role is played by puccini and which by the OPERA. This must be given explicitly in the query as shown below.

composed-by(puccini : composer, $OPERA : opera)?

Here it is made explicit that we want to find out when puccini plays the role composer and when the OPERA plays the role opera. This syntax is only used for association predicates, not for any other type of predicate. The result is as shown below.

Table 1.1. All operas composed by Puccini

Le Villi
Madame Butterfly
Manon Lescaut
La Bohème

We can play around with the variables here in the same way as we did for the instance-of predicate, and get all combinations of opera and composer, and all composers for a specific opera (say tosca). This is done in exactly the same way, so we won't explain how here, but leave it as an exercise for the reader. See section 4.1 to learn how to run tolog queries in the Omnigator.

1.3. AND

If we want to find all cities located in Italy we know that this is easy: we can just query the located-in association type to find the city topics that have this association with the Italy topic. Similarly, if we want to find everyone born in a particular just query the born-in association type.

But what if we want to find everyone born in a city located in Italy? What we want in this case is something like what is shown below.

born-in($PERSON : person, $PLACE : place) 
located-in($CITY : containee, italy : container)?

This query is quite close to the correct one, but there are two problems with it. First of all, the way to chain predicates together with an AND condition is simply to put a comma between them. (You can say that AND is the default boolean operator in tolog.) The second problem is that we want to make sure that the CITY located in Italy is the same as the PLACE where the person is born. If we use the same variable in both places tolog will take this to mean that the same values have to be used both places. So what we want is the query below.

born-in($PERSON : person, $CITY : place),
located-in($CITY : containee, italy : container)?

When this query is run the first predicate will produce a table of all (person, city) combinations where the person is born in the city. This is then passed to the second predicate, which takes out all rows where the city is not located in Italy [1].

We can chain together as many predicates as we want in order to express our query; there's nothing unusual in having 4-5 predicates chained together to form a query.

1.4. Projection

In the above example we have the problem that the query returns both the people and the city, while we are only interested in the people. This can be solved by using projection, as follows:

select $PERSON from
  born-in($PERSON : person, $CITY : place),
  located-in($CITY : containee, italy : container)?

This tells the query engine that we're only interested in the PERSON variable, and so it will produce a query result that only consists of bindings of the PERSON variable. In this case, this is not so important, as we could just as well have just ignored the bindings to the CITY variable. In some cases, however, ignoring one variable means reducing the size of the query result (and avoiding duplicates), and sometimes reducing the query result size quite dramatically. One example is given below.

select $B from
  instance-of($A, $B)?

This query returns all the topic types used in the topic map, instead of all class-instance pairs. The difference in the query result size (not to mention performance) can be enormous, which is what makes this useful.

1.5. Counting

Quite often, one uses queries to produce statistics about the data contained in a topic map. If one wants to find out which Italian opera composer was the most prolific, for example, one will want to count the number of query results. tolog supports this, as the query below shows.

select $A, count($B) from
  composed-by($A : composer, $B : opera)?

This query produces the full A, B table, then replaces all rows that have the same value in the A column by the number of such rows. The result is to count the number of B matches per A match.

1.6. Sorting

While the query above does return the number of operas composed by each composer, it does so in an order that is effectively random. What we really want is to see the composers ordered by decreasing number of composed operas. This can be achieved by writing the query as shown below.

  select $A, count($B) from
    composed-by($A : composer, $B : opera)
  order by $B desc?

If the desc keyword is removed, the query results will be ordered by ascending opera count instead of descending count. The 'order by' clause can contain any number of variables, separated by commas.

The asc keyword specifies that columns be ordered in ascending order. This is also the default order.

2. Advanced features

What has been presented so far are only the simplest parts of tolog; what one could call "basic tolog". tolog is much more powerful than this, however, and that additional power is explored in this section.

2.1. Dynamic occurrence predicates

So far we have only looked at how to query on associations, but occurrences also contain useful information, and in many cases we want to retrieve or query on this information. This can be done in a manner very similar to how associations are queried: the occurrence type is used as the predicate. However, occurrences have a much simpler structure, so for these we only need two positional parameters: first the topic, then the occurrence value.

Finding the date of birth of every composer can be done as follows.

instance-of($COMPOSER, composer), 
date-of-birth($COMPOSER, $DATE)?

This query gives the following result.

Table 2.1. All composers and their dates of birth

Verdi, Giuseppe1813 (10 Oct)
Ponchielli, Amilcar1834 (31 Aug)
Cilea, Francisco1866 (23 Jul)
Boïto, Arrigo1842 (24 Feb)
Catalani, Alfredo1854 (19 Jun)
Puccini, Giacomo1858 (22 Dec)

As with association predicates it is also possible to find the date of birth of a specific composer, or to find all composers born on a particular date. To do the latter we write:

date-of-birth($PERSON, "1867 (24 Mar)")?

This will find all topics which have this particular value for this particular occurrence type (though of course only people have dates of birth in this topic map), regardless of whether they are composers or not. As it turns out, only Guido Menasci has this value, and he's a librettist.

Note that locators are treated the same way as ordinary strings, which means that to find all topics whose home pages are, you can use the following query.

homepage($TOPIC, "")?

This finds all topics with a homepage occurrence whose locator is the URI This turns out to produce the results shown below.

Table 2.2. All topics with homepage

Centro studi Giacomo Puccini

2.2. OR

Quite often one may want to include information that matches either one condition OR another condition. If, for example, we want to find all operas which had their premiere in a particular city there are two ways to do that. Usually we know which theatre the opera had its premiere in, and in these cases the premiere is connected to that theatre, and the theatre is connected with the city. In some cases, however, all we know is the city, and in these cases the premiere is directly connected with the city. Therefore, if we want to find all operas which premiered in Milano[2], we have to do as shown below.

select $OPERA from
  { premiere($OPERA : opera, milano : place) | 
    premiere($OPERA : opera, $THEATRE : place), 
    located-in($THEATRE : containee, milano : container) }?

Here matches will be accepted so long as they satisfy one of the branches inside the curly braces, where the branches are separated by | characters. Other predicates can be used in front of and after the curly braces, and the braces can be nested arbitrarily deep. The result is shown below.

Table 2.1. Operas premiered in Milano

Il sindaco babbeo
La Falce
I Cavalieri di Ekebù

This capability is essentially the same as the boolean operator OR in other languages, as it allows tolog to return results where the criteria are true if { A | B }.

2.2.1. Non-failing clauses

A closely related function is what is known as non-failing clauses; that is, a clause that will produce a value for a variable if it can, but if it cannot still won't cause the query to fail. This is useful when selecting optional values which are intended to be used for display purposes.

One example might be if we want to all operas and for each the theatre in which it had its premiere. If we don't know where it had its premiere we still want to show the opera, but we'll leave out the theatre. This is easily done as follows, by including the optional part of the query in curly braces, without any alternative branches.

instance-of($OPERA, opera),
{ premiere($OPERA : opera, $THEATRE : place) }?

As you'll see if you try it, this query also returns matches where THEATRE is bound to a city, since nothing in the query says that it has to be bound to a theatre (tolog completely ignores the meaning of variable names), and operas also have this association with cities. So we have to add a condition that the THEATRE actually be an instance of the type theatre, as shown below.

instance-of($OPERA, opera),
{ premiere($OPERA : opera, $THEATRE : place), 
  instance-of($THEATRE, theatre) }?

This query gives the desired result, which is shown below.

Table 2.1. Operas and premiere theatres

Teatro ArgentinaI due foscari
Teatro Sociale di LeccoIl parlatore eterno
Teatro La FeniceAttila
Teatro alla ScalaMadame Butterfly
nullIl sindaco babbeo

2.3. Using negation

tolog supports negation, even though negation in logical querying is not at all straightforward. To take an example imagine running the query below.

not(born-in(milano : place, $A : person))?

What is this query going to return? All topics that have no born-in association with Milano? All person topics? An infinite number of topics, representing everything that wasn't born in Milano? What about the persons which have no born-in association yet, but which were actually born in Milano? And so on.

The approach taken in tolog is that the not operator is used as a filter. You must specify a start set, and the query processor will then eliminate the members of the start set which match the condition specified in the not clause. The example below shows the people in the topic map that were not born in Italy.

instance-of($PERSON, person),
not(born-in($PLACE : place, $PERSON : person),
    located-in($PLACE : containee, italy : container))?

This gives the results shown below.

Table 2.1. Non-Italian people

Guglielmo Ratcliff
Manzoni, Alessandro
Comtessa di Coigny
Sardou, Victorien

One thing that stands out here is that Alessandro Manzoni actually is Italian. So why was he included? Well, this query is subtly different from asking for the composers born somewhere not in Italy. This query will also find composers which have no born-in association, or who are born somewhere that has no located-in association. It turns out that Alessandro Manzoni has no born-in association, and so he is "not born in Italy". To eliminate this type of match we would have had to pick out the country where the person is born and use /= to make sure that it was not Italy. On the other hand, that would have left out Victorien Sardou, who is a person (with no born-in association) and not Italian. (So why do we say all this? Simply to emphasise that not is subtly different from true negation. It might not mean what you think it means.)

Another thing to note is that although this query uses the PLACE variable that variable is not actually bound in the query. That is because every COMPOSER that creates a match for PLACE is eliminated, leaving only those which don't. So while the query result will contain a PLACE column, that column will be empty.

2.4. Comparison predicates

tolog also supports the comparison operators familiar from many other languages. We have already seen /=, but there are many more. For example, there is also =, which means the opposite of what /= does. That is, it is true when the values on both sides are equal. This means that we can do a query to find operas which premiered on a particular day, as in:

premiere-date($OPERA, $DATE),
$DATE = "1870 (22 Feb)"?

This will give us the (single) opera premiered on this date, according to the Opera topic map. It should be noted that in most cases the = comparator is not necessary, since if a variable is equal to another variable or a literal we can just replace all occurrences of the variable with what it is supposed to be equal to. This gives us simpler queries, like the one below.

premiere-date($OPERA, "1870 (22 Feb)")?

However, this comparator does have its uses, such as when defining an inference rule (see following section) that will connect a topic to all topics matching some condition as well as the topic itself. To put it another way: it's useful to know that this predicate exists, but be aware that you rarely need it.

There are also four other comparison predicates (<, >, <=, >=) which only compare strings, and, at the moment, compare strings as strings. This makes it possible to do a query to find all operas premiered in the 19th century, as follows:

premiere-date($OPERA, $DATE),
$DATE < "1900"?

This will do a string comparison on the dates, and filter out everything premiered in the 20th century. Note that these four predicates do not compare anything other than strings (such as topics), and that they require both values they are comparing to be bound.

2.5. Inference rules

In many cases there are implicit relationships in the topic map not stated as associations, but which can be deduced from more basic relationships that are given explicitly as associations. Inference rules provide a way to capture these implicit relationships through the declaration of a simple rule. The rule can then be used throughout an application to simplify queries.

We can say that if an opera composer was a pupil of another composer, or if the composer wrote operas based on the work of another person, that other person or composer influenced the composer. We can of course query for this, but if we want to use the influenced-by relationship in several larger queries this quickly gets awkward. Instead, we can capture the relationship in an inference rule, as shown below.

influenced-by($A, $B) :- {
  pupil-of($A : pupil, $B : teacher) |
  composed-by($OPERA : opera, $A : composer),
  based-on($OPERA : result, $WORK : source),
  written-by($WORK : work, $B : writer)

This rule has now created a new predicate called influenced-by, which can be used in queries. Let's say that we want to find every case where an Italian opera composer was influenced by someone who was not himself Italian. We can now do this as shown below.

instance-of($COMPOSER, composer),
influenced-by($COMPOSER, $INFLUENCE),
born-in($INFLUENCE : person, $PLACE : place),
not(located-in($PLACE : containee, italy : container))?

We skip verifying that the composer was born in Italy, since all composers in this topic map are born in Italy. This gives the result shown below.

Table 2.1. Foreign influences on Italian opera

Verdi, GiuseppeMéry, Joseph
Ponchielli, AmilcarScribe, Eugène
Cilea, FrancescoDaudet, Alphonse
Cilea, FrancescoScribe, Eugène
Cilea, FrancescoMélésville

Inference rules can also use other influence rules, which means that one can build large reasoning structures by layering the inference rules on top of each other. Inference rules can also use themselves, which makes it possible to define recursive inference rules, for example for traversing hierarchical association structures.

Note that tolog has the same comment syntax as LTM (that is, comments begin with /* and end with */). This can be used for example to document inference rules, as shown below.

/* connects opera composers (A) with the people who influenced them
   (B), either by being their teachers or by writing works on which
   the composer based operas */

influenced-by($A, $B) :- {
  pupil-of($A : pupil, $B : teacher) |
  composed-by($OPERA : opera, $A : composer),
  based-on($OPERA : result, $WORK : source),
  written-by($WORK : work, $B : writer)

In the example above it may look as though the bodies of inference rules should be wrapped in curly braces, like blocks in Java or C, but the curlies are there because the entire rule is one big OR clause. If we drop the pupil-of part the rule would look as shown below. If we had wrapped this in curly braces we would have turned the body of the rule into a non-failing clause (section 2.2.1), allowing it to match topics which don't actually satisfy the rule. So beware of this.

influenced-by($A, $B) :-
  composed-by($OPERA : opera, $A : composer),
  based-on($OPERA : result, $WORK : source),
  written-by($WORK : work, $B : writer).      

As said above, tolog supports recursive inference rules, which are typically used to traverse hierarchies, or to query transitive association types. An example of such an inference rule, for a generic parent-child relationship, might look as follows:

descendant-of($ANC, $DES) :- {
  parent-child($ANC : parent, $DES : child) |
  parent-child($ANC : parent, $MID : child), descendant-of($MID, $DES)

Notice how the rule is essentially a formalization of what it means to be a descendant. That is, either the ancestor is the parent of the descendant, or the ancestor is the parent of some middle topic of which the descendant is a descendant. This explanation may sound a little strange, and that's because of the recursion in the last step.

2.6. The built-in predicates

The parts of tolog shown thus far only support querying on type-instance relationships, associations with a specific structure, and occurrences of specific types. It is impossible to do queries like "find all association types", "find all associations between topics X and Y", "find all occurrences of topic Z", and so on with the parts of tolog that have been explained thus far.

tolog has a number of built-in predicates like instance-of that make it possible to do this kind of query. These predicates are listed below, and more fully documented in The Built-in tolog Predicates — Reference Documentation.


This predicate takes only one parameter and finds all associations. Can be used to test whether a value is an association, and to find all associations.

association-role($ASSOC, $ROLE)

This predicate connects associations with their association roles.


Finds the base locator of the topic map.

direct-instance-of($INSTANCE, $TYPE)

A variant of instance-of which connects a topic with the topics it is explicitly said to be an instance of. In other words, just like instance-of, except that it ignores the superclass-subclass association.

instance-of($INSTANCE, $TYPE)

This predicate connects a topic (INSTANCE) with every topic it is an instance of (TYPE). A topic is considered to be an instance of another if the other is explicitly set as the type, or if it is a superclass of a topic that is set as the type.

occurrence($TOPIC, $OCCURRENCE)

Connects occurrences with the topics they belong to.


Connects topics (REIFIER) with the topic map constructs (REIFIED) they reify.

resource($OBJECT, $LOCATOR)

For any variant name or occurrence that has a locator (OBJECT), finds that locator.

role-player($ROLE, $PLAYER)

Connects association roles with the topic that plays the role.

scope($SCOPED, $THEME)

Connects topic names, occurrences, and associations with the topics that make up the scope.

item-identifier($OBJECT, $LOCATOR)

Finds the item identifiers of a topic map construct.

subject-identifier($TOPIC, $LOCATOR)

Connects topics with their subject identifiers.

subject-locator($TOPIC, $LOCATOR)

Connects a topic with its subject locator, if it has one.


Finds all topics in the topic map.

topic-name($TOPIC, $NAME)

Connects topics with their topic names.


Finds the topic map itself.

type($TYPED, $TYPE)

Connects occurrences, associations, and association roles (TYPED) with their type, if they have one.

value($OBJECT, $VALUE)

Finds the string value of topic names, variant names, and occurrences, if they have one.


This predicate must have a bound value for the SEARCHSTRING argument, and will do a full-text search for topic map constructs that match the SEARCHSTRING. This makes it possible to do full-text searches in tolog queries.


Connects variants with the topic names they are contained in.


Compares two values (both of which must be bound) to see if they are the different; fails if the two values are equal.

We can't give examples of the use of all of these predicates, since there are so many of them, but at least we can show some. We can start with "find all association types", which is given below., "find all associations between topics X and Y", "find all occurrences of topic Z"

select $TYPE from
  association($ASSOC), type($ASSOC, $TYPE)?

Finding all associations between topic 'x' and topic 'y' is quite easy, though a bit more involved.

select $ASSOC from
  role-player($ROLE1, x),
  association-role($ASSOC, $ROLE1),
  association-role($ASSOC, $ROLE2),
  role-player($ROLE2, y)?

We can also find all occurrences of topic z quite easily, as shown below.

occurrence(z, $OCC)?

The /= predicate allows an interesting class of queries. We can control which values must be the same in a query, simply by using the same variable, but we cannot force different variables to have different values. This means that if we try to do a query like "find all people born on the same day" we run into a quite subtle problem. Below is the naive way to approach it.

date-of-birth($PERSON1, $DATE),
date-of-birth($PERSON2, $DATE)?

This runs, but does not produce the result we want, as can be seen from the table below.

Table 2.1. People sharing birthdays

Benelli, Sem1877 (10 Aug)Benelli, Sem
Ghislanzoni, Antonio1824 (25 Nov)Ghislanzoni, Antonio
Coppée, François1842 (26 Jan)Coppée, François

Here tolog has discovered that if PERSON1 is 'Benelli, Sam', DATE is '1877 (10 Aug)', and PERSON2 is 'Benelli, Sam', then our query criteria are satisfied. In other words, tolog has found, as we asked it to, that every person has the same birthdate as himself. We knew this all along, of course, and did not want it in our query results at all, so what we do now is to specify that we are not interested in matches where there is only one person. This is done as below.

date-of-birth($PERSON1, $DATE),
date-of-birth($PERSON2, $DATE),

This gives the result we wanted, which is shown below.

Table 2.2. People really sharing birthdays

Bognasco, G. di(unknown)Lombardo, Carlo
Bognasco, G. di(unknown)Franci, Arturo
Bognasco, G. di(unknown)Vaucaire, Maurice
Duveyrier, Charles1803Royer, Alphonse
Royer, Alphonse1803Duveyrier, Charles

Again the results are somewhat disappointing. We see that there are indeed two people who share the specified birth information, but in their case we only know the year. We also see that a number of people all have their birth date given as "(unknown)" and since all these values are the same they are also returned as query matches, though they are of course not guaranteed to have the same birth date.

2.7. Paging

Sometimes we don't want all the results from a query, but only a limited set of results. For example, we may only want to know the answer to "who is the most prolific opera composer?" In this case, we only want the first row of the results, and not the rest, however many they may be. tolog supports this, through the LIMIT keyword, as shown below.

select $A, count($B) from
  composed-by($A : composer, $B : opera)
order by $B desc limit 1?

This gives the result ("Verdi, Guiseppe", 28), but does not return any of the other rows. Note that the order by is very important. Without this we would have produced the rows in random order, then only returned the first, which need not have been the row for the most prolific composer.

The LIMIT keyword is mainly used as a performance optimization in cases where a large number of results can be returned. LIMIT allows the application to tell the query processor the limit the number of results to a manageable number, and this can have significant performance benefits in some cases.

Another use for LIMIT is when one wants to show a paged list. That is, a query is run to show first results 1-10, then, if the user wants to go further, 11-20, then, 21-30, and so on. tolog can do this with LIMIT and OFFSET together. Let's say we want to show operas, and we only want to show the first page. We can then do as below.

instance-of($OPERA, opera)
order by $OPERA limit 10?

This gives us the first ten operas (note the order by which guarantees a consistent ordering), and we can continue with the below to get operas 11-20.

instance-of($OPERA, opera)
order by $OPERA limit 10 offset 10?

This query starts on row 10 (the first one did rows 0-9) according to OFFSET and stops after 10 rows, according to LIMIT. By increasing OFFSET to 20, 30, and so on we can continue stepping through the pages.

3. Identifiers

One thing that has been consistently glossed over so far is how topic identifiers like composer actually refer to topics, and how to refer to topics by means such as their subject identifiers. Another issue we've ignored is how to actually make inference rule definitions available to the query processor. This section deals with both of those issues in more detail.

3.1. Referring to topics

There are several different ways of referring to topics (and other topic map constructs, such as topic names, occurrences etc) in tolog, although so far we have only seen topic IDs. Below is a complete list of the different syntaxes.

This syntax is used to look up topics by their source locators. The given ID is expanded to a full source locator by prepending the base URI of the topic map being queried, followed by #. If the topic being looked up did not originate in the root document of the topic map (but instead came from a file that was merged into it), this lookup will fail.
Used to look up topics by their subject identifiers. The URI of the identifier is given between the quotes, and is resolved relative to the base URI of the topicmap.
Used to look up topics by their subject locator. The URI of the subject locator is given between the quotes, and is resolved relative to the base URI of the topicmap.
Used to look up topics by their source locators. The URI of the locator is given between the quotes, and is resolved relative to the base URI of the topicmap.
Used to look up topics by their object ids. This is the fastest method, and the one that is recommended when generating tolog statements automatically. It does not make for readable queries, however, and so should not be used for other purposes.

This allows us to for example write a query that in any topic map will find the topics at the top of the superclass-subclass hierarchy, as shown below.

select $TOP from
    $TOP : i"",
    $SUB : i""),
    $OTHER : i"",
    $TOP : i""))?

Since this query uses the subject identifiers for the association type and role types defined by XTM 1.0 this will work regardless of what the XML IDs given to the topics are in any particular topic map. This makes the query quite portable and robust. (Unfortunately, it also makes the query almost entirely unreadable, but more about that in the next section.)

3.2. URI prefixes

As noted above, giving URIs in full throughout a query quickly makes the query so verbose as to be virtually unreadable. In order to solve this, tolog has a feature called URI prefixes, which allows the definition of an identifier prefix that can be combined with a local name to create a full URI. Using this we can rewrite the query from the previous section as shown below.

using xtm for i""
select $TOP from
  xtm:superclass-subclass($TOP : xtm:superclass, $SUB : xtm:subclass),
  not(xtm:superclass-subclass($OTHER : xtm:superclass,
                              $TOP : xtm:subclass))?

This query defines the prefix xtm which is bound to the URI "", and which is defined to be interpreted as subject identifier reference (because of the i before the URI). Thus, xtm:subclass is interpreted as i"".

It is possible to define more than one prefix in a single query, and it is also possible to bind prefixes to a"..." and s"..." URIs.

3.3. Modules

Another thing we have glossed over so far is how to actually make an inference rule available for use in queries. As it turns out, there are several ways to do this, and we'll walk through them one by one. The easiest is simply to put the rule into the query that uses it, like shown below.

influenced-by($A, $B) :- {
  pupil-of($A : pupil, $B : teacher) |
  composed-by($OPERA : opera, $A : composer),
  based-on($OPERA : result, $WORK : source),
  written-by($WORK : work, $B : writer)

instance-of($COMPOSER, composer),
influenced-by($COMPOSER, $INFLUENCE),
born-in($INFLUENCE : person, $PLACE : place),
not(located-in($PLACE : containee, italy : container))?

However, having to repeat the rule for every query that uses it is not exactly a good code reuse strategy, so tolog also supports importing rule sets from files. If the influenced-by rule is stored in the file in the same directory as the opera.ltm topic map file the above query can also be written as shown below.

import "" as opera

instance-of($COMPOSER, composer),
opera:influenced-by($COMPOSER, $INFLUENCE),
born-in($INFLUENCE : person, $PLACE : place),
not(located-in($PLACE : containee, italy : container))?

What happens here is that the import statement imports the rule file, which is stored as a module bound to the opera prefix. The inference rules in the file then turn into predicates in the module, and can be accessed through the opera prefix.

References to module files are first attempted loaded from the CLASSPATH. If it was not found on the CLASSPATH then it is resolved relative to the URI of the topic map, except inside module files where it is resolved relative to the URI of the module file. (Module files can import other module files.)

3.4. Scoping rules

One thing we haven't looked at yet is what are known as scoping rules; that is, the rules for which declarations are visible where. Declarations in tolog are of two types: inference rule declarations, and prefix declarations (whether URI prefixes or module imports). The rules for all declarations are the same, and they are as listed below.

4. Running tolog queries

This section explains how you can run tolog queries with Ontopia.

4.1. The tolog plug-in

The easiest way to get started with actually running tolog queries and seeing the query results is to use the tolog plug-in in the Omnigator. This plug-in appears as a "Query" link in the plug-in row of the Omnigator's pages. Clicking on this link takes you to a page where you can write tolog queries in a form and see them evaluated. The results display as a table where each topic is linked back into the Omnigator.

4.2. The 'tolog' tag library

The Navigator Framework contains a tag library named 'tolog', which consists of JSP tags specially designed for creating HTML output from topic maps using tolog. The tag library allows queries to be run against the topic map, and makes the resulting variable bindings available as parameters for new queries or to be output, etc. For more information on this, please consult The Navigator Framework — Developer's Guide.

4.3. Using the query processor API

The tolog query processor also has a Java API, which can be used to evaluate queries and make use of the query results. The heart of this API is the QueryProcessorIF interface, which represents the query processor. Query processors can parse queries and return objects representing them, and also take queries and return query results (represented by QueryResultIF objects). These interfaces are all in the net.ontopia.topicmaps.query.core package.

There are two tolog implementations in Ontopia. One of these works directly against the API, and thus works for all the topic map engine backends. However, it does not perform optimally for very large topic maps stored in RDBMSs, and so there is a special implementation for this backend. The QueryUtils class in the net.ontopia.topicmaps.query.utils package can be used to create query processors. It will automatically select the right processor for your topic map, and lets you write code that is independent of which backend you use.

The example below shows the implementation of the tolog plug-in in the Omnigator, which is written using the API. The example has been simplified somewhat, in order to make it more clear.

The tolog plug-in

<p>Query:<br> <%= query %></p>

 String query = request.getParameter("query");
 QueryProcessor proc = QueryUtils.getQueryProcessor(topicmap);
 QueryResultIF result = proc.execute(query);
 StringifierIF str = TopicStringifiers.getDefaultStringifier();

<table class="text">
  String[] variables = result.getColumnNames();
  for (int ix = 0; ix < variables.length; ix++)
    out.write("<th>" + variables[ix]);

  Object[] row = new Object[result.getWidth()];
  while ( {
    for (int ix = 0; ix < variables.length; ix++) {
      if (row[ix] == null)
      else if (row[ix] instanceof TopicIF)
        out.write("<td><a href=\"../../models/topic_" + model + ".jsp?tm=" + tmid  + "&id=" + ((TopicIF) row[ix]).getObjectId() + "\">" +
                  str.toString(row[ix]) + "</a>");
        out.write("<td>" + row[ix]);

Note that in order to avoid resource leaks it is necessary to close all result sets when using the RDBMS backend.

An easier interface for running queries in Ontopia is provided by the QueryWrapper class in the net.ontopia.topicmaps.query.utils package. This provides methods for running a query and getting a single topic or string, or a list of objects, and also has methods for converting a query result into a list of custom objects and so on. This class automatically takes care of closing result sets.

4.4. Parameters

The query processor API supports parsing a query once and then running the parsed query many times. This is supported through the parse(String query) method of the QueryProcessorIF. This returns an object implementing ParsedQueryIF, which can be executed many times.

Of course, executing the same query many times is not very interesting; one might as well just cache the results and achieve the same thing much more efficiently. However, tolog also supports parameters to parsed queries. These are written with the %foo% syntax that we saw used with the tm:tolog tag above.

The ParsedQueryIF interface has two methods named execute. One takes no arguments and effectively reruns the same query. The other takes a Map argument which maps parameter names to their values. Using this, the same query can be run over and over again with different parameters without having to pay the cost of parsing and optimizing the query more than once.

5. tolog updates

In addition to querying the topic map to retrieve data tolog also supports making modifications to the topic map. This section explains how to use the DELETE, UPDATE, INSERT, and MERGE statements, in addition to the SELECT statement covered so far.

Note that in all of these statement types, topic references and prefix declarations have exactly the same syntax as in SELECT statements.

5.1. The DELETE statement

This statement is used to delete objects from the topic map. The simplest form of delete statements is as follows:

Deleting a topic

delete foo

This would delete the topic map object with the ID foo. If it is a topic map everything in the topic map will be deleted. If it is an association, the association and all its roles will be deleted. If it's a topic the topic and all its names, occurrences, and all the associations it plays roles in will be deleted. It will also be removed as a reifier, a topic type, and from scopes, and statements typed with the topic will also be deleted.

It's possible to run a query to delete things, as follows:

Deleting all person topics

delete $PERSON from
  instance-of($PERSON, person)

The from part of the query is the same as for SELECT statements, and so the above would find all topics of type PERSON and delete them. Any number of variables and topic references are allowed in the delete clause.

Finally, there is a third form of DELETE statements, which calls a function to remove a value from a property. Here is an example, removing all Wikipedia PSIs from all topics in the topic map:

Removing Wikipedia PSIs

import "" as str
  delete subject-identifier($TOPIC, $PSI) from
  subject-identifier($TOPIC, $PSI),
  str:starts-with($PSI, "")

The deletion functions available in tolog are:

subject-identifiertopic, locatorRemoves the locator as a subject identifier for the topic.
subject-locatortopic, locatorRemoves the locator as a subject locator for the topic.
item-identifierobject, locatorRemoves the locator as an item identifier for the object.
direct-instance-oftopic, topicRemoves the second topic as an a topic type of the first topic.
scopestatement, topicRemoves the topic from the scope of the statement.
reifiesstatement, topicRemoves the topic as a reifier of the statement.

5.2. The INSERT statement

The INSERT statement is used to add new information to the topic map. In its simplest form it looks like this:

Adding a new topic

  tolog-updates isa update-language;
    - "tolog updates".

Basically, after the INSERT keyword follows topic map data in CTM syntax. Note that it is possible to use the CTM wildcard syntax to create new topics without giving them explicit IDs in the CTM fragment. Prefixes declared for the tolog query can also be used in the CTM fragment.

There is another more powerful form of the INSERT statement which runs a query and instantiates the CTM part once for each row in the query result. An example of this might be as follows:

Adding Wikipedia PSIs

import "" as str
  insert $topic $psi . from
  article-about($topic, $psi),
  str:starts-with($psi, "")

For every article-about occurrence which references a Wikipedia article this statement adds the URI of the article as a subject identifier of the topic.

5.3. The UPDATE statement

The UPDATE statement makes it possible to change the values of some properties in the topic map. The statement has two forms, of which the simplest is this:

Simple update

update value(@2312, "Ontopia")

The above statement sets the string value of the object with ID 2312 to "Ontopia". It is also possible to run a query to find the objects to change (and their values), as follows:

Query update

update value($TN, "Ontopia") from
  topic-name(oks, $TN)

The available update functions are:

valueobject, stringSets the string value of the object, which must be a topic name, variant name, or occurrence.
resourceobject, locatorSets the value of the object to the given locator (and also changes the datatype to URI), where the object must be a variant name or an occurrence.

5.4. The MERGE statement

The MERGE statement can be used to merge topics either by running a query or directly, as in the example below.

Merging two topics

merge topic1, topic2

It's also possible to find the topics to merge by running a query, as in the following:

Merging by email

merge $T1, $T2 from
  email($T1, $EMAIL),
  email($T2, $EMAIL)

Rows where T1 and T2 refer to the same topic are ignored.

6. Further reading

The most detailed description of tolog can be found in tolog specification and the TMRA 2005 paper.

The Extending tolog conference paper from Extreme Markup 2003 has more background on why tolog was extended from version 0.1 to 1.0, and the design issues faced in that process.

The original paper on tolog is tolog - A topic map query language, from XML Europe 2001.

More about tolog updates can be found in the TMRA 2009 paper.

Appendix: Footnotes

In practice the tolog query optimizer will start with the second predicate and find all cities in Italy. It will then find all the people born in those cities. It will do this because the other way around will find lots of (person, city) combinations outside Italy, which will be wasted because they have to be thrown away afterwards. The result will of course be exactly the same. It may be useful to be aware, however, that tolog will not necessarily run the query exactly as given, but may transform it to a faster, but equivalent, query before running it.
The traditional English perversion of this is 'Milan'.