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A smart knowledge store

Project description

The Terms knowledge store

Terms is a smart knowledge store.
It is used to store knowledge, that can later be queried.
It provides a declarative language with which to express the knowledge.
I call it smart because its language can be used to express rules,
and these rules combine existing knowledge to produce new knowledge.

Terms is licensed under the GPLv3, and is hosted at
`github <>`_.

The Terms language

Here I will describe the Terms language.

To try the given examples, if you have installed Terms,
you have to type "terms" in a terminal,
and you will get a REPL where you can enter Terms constructs.
Follow the instuctions in the INSTALL.rst.

More examples can be found in the
`github repository <>`_.


The main building block of Terms constructs are words.

To start with, there are a few predefined words:
``word``, ``verb``, ``noun``, ``number``, ``thing``, and ``exists``.

New words are defined relating them to existing words.

There are 2 relations that can be established among pairs of words.

These relations are formally similar to the set relations
"is an element of" and "is a subset of".

In English, we express the first relation as "is of type",
and in Terms it is expressed as::

word1 is a word2.

So we would say that ``word1`` is of type ``word2``.
The second relation is expressed in English as "is subtype of",
and in Terms::

a word1 is a word2.

So, we would say that ``word1`` is a subtype of ``word2``.
Among the predifined words, these relations are given::

word is a word.
verb is a word.
a verb is a word.
noun is a word.
a noun is a word.
thing is a noun.
a thing is a word.
exists is a verb.
a exists is a word.
number is a word.
a number is a word.

To define a new word, you put it in relation to an existing word. For example::

a person is a thing.
a man is a person.
a woman is a person.
john is a man.
sue is a woman.

These relations have consecuences, given by 2 implicit rules::

A is a B; a B is a C -> A is a C.
a A is a B; a B is a C -> a A is a C.

Therefore, from all the above, we have, for example, that::

thing is a word.
person is a word.
person is a noun.
john is a word.
a man is a thing.
john is a thing.
sue is a person.

With these words, we can build facts.
A fact consists of a verb and any number of (labelled) objects.

Verbs are special words in that they have modifiers (or objects) when used to build facts.
These modifiers are words, and are labeled. To define a new verb, you provide
the types of words that can be objects for the verb in a fact,
associated with their label.
For example::

loves is exists, subj a person, who a person.

That can be read as:
``loves`` is a word of type ``verb``, subtype of ``exists``,
and when used in facts it can take a subject of type ``person``
and an object labelled ``who`` of type ``person``.


Facts are built with a verb and a number of objects.
They are given in parenthesis. For example, we might have a fact such as::

(loves john, who sue).

The ``subj`` object is special: all verbs have it, and in sentences it is not
labelled with ``subj``, it just takes the place of the subject right after the verb.

Verbs inherit the object types of their ancestors. The primitive ``exists`` verb
only takes one object, ``subj``, of type ``word``, inherited by all the rest of the verbs.
So, if we define a verb::

adores is loves.

It will have a ``who`` object of type ``person``. If ``adores`` had provided
a new object, it would have been added to the inherited ones.
A new verb can override an inherited object type to provide a subtype of the original
object type (like we have done above with ``subj``.)

A fact must always provide all the objects that the verb can take.
(The reason for the labels is that in rules and in queries
it is not necessary to provide all the objects).

Facts are words,
"first class citizens",
and can be used wherever a word can be used.
Facts are words of type ``exists``, and also of type <verb>,
were <verb> is the verb used to build the fact.
So our facts are actually synctactic sugar for
``(loves john, who sue) is a loves.``

The objects in a fact can be of any type (a ``word``, a ``verb``, a ``noun``, a ``thing``,
a ``number``). In addition, they can also be facts (type ``exists``).
So, if we define a verb like::

wants is exists, subj a person, what a exists.

We can then build facts like::

(wants john, what (loves sue, who john)).

And indeed::

(wants john, what (wants sue, what (loves sue, who john))).


We can build rules, that function producing new facts out of existing (or newly added) ones.
A rule has 2 sets of facts, the conditions and the consecuences. The facts in each set of
facts are separated by semicolons, and the symbol ``->`` separates the conditions
from the consecuences.
A simple rule might be::

(loves john, who sue)
(loves sue, who john).

The facts in the knowledge base are matched with the conditions of rules,
and when all the conditions of a rule are matched by coherent facts,
the consecuences are added to the knowledge base. The required coherence
among matching facts concerns the variables in the conditions.

We can use variables in rules. They are logical variables, used only to match words,
and with a scope limited to the rule were they are used. We build variables by
capitalizing the name of the type of words that it can match, and appending any number of
digits. So, for example, a variable ``Person1`` would match any person, such as
``sue`` or ``john``. With variables, we may build a rule like::

(loves Person1, who Person2)
(loves Person2, who Person1).

If we have this rule, and also that ``(loves john, who sue)``, the system will conclude
that ``(loves sue, who john)``.

Variables can match whole facts. For example, with the verbs we have defined, we could
build a rule such as::

(wants john, what (Exists1))

With this, and ``(wants john, what (loves sue, who john)).``, the system would conclude
that ``(loves sue, who john)``.

Variables that match verbs have a special form, in that they are prefixed by
the name of a verb (or a noun), so that they match verbs that are subtypes of the given verb.
For example, with the words we have from above, we might make a rule like::

(LovesVerb1 john, who Person1)
(loves Person1, who john).

In this case, ``LovesVerb1`` would match both ``loves`` and ``adores``, so both
``(loves john, who sue)`` and ``(adores john, who sue)`` would produce the conclusion
that ``(loves sue, who john)``.

For a more elaborate example we can define a new verb::

allowed is exists, subj a person, to a verb.

and a rule::

(wants Person1, what (LovesVerb1 Person1, who Person2));
(allowed Person1, to LovesVerb1)
(LovesVerb1 Person1, who Person2).

Then, ``(allowed john, to adores)`` would allow him to adore but not to love.

We can use word variables, e.g. ``Word1``, that will match any word or fact.
An example can be seen `here <>`_.

Finally, number variables are composed just with a capital letter and an integer, like
``N1``, ``P3``, or ``F122``.


Numbers are of type ``number``.
We don't define numbers, we just use them.
Any sequence of characters that can be cast as a number type in Python
are numbers in Terms, e.g.: ``1``, ``-1e12``, ``2-3j``, ``10.009`` are numbers.

Pythonic conditions

In rules, we can add a section where we test conditions with Python, or where we produce
new variables out of existing ones. This is primarily provided to test arithmetic conditions
and to perform arithetic operations. This section is placed after the conditions,
between the symbols ``<-`` and ``->``. The results of the tests are placed in a
``condition`` python variable, and if it evaluates to ``False``, the rule is not fired.

To give an example, let's imagine some new terms::

aged is exists, age a number.
a bar is a thing.
club-momentos is a bar.
enters is exists, where a bar.

Now, we can build a rule such as::

(aged Person1, age N1);
(wants Person1, what (enters Person1, where Bar1))
condition = N1 >= 18
(enters Person1, where Bar1).

If we have that::

(aged sue, age 17).
(aged john, age 19).
(wants sue, what (enters sue, where club-momentos)).
(wants john, what (enters john, where club-momentos)).

The system will (only) conclude that ``(enters john, where club-momentos)``.


We can use 2 kinds of negation in Terms, classical negation and
negation by failure.

**Classical negation**

Any fact can be negated by prepending ``!`` to its verb::

(!aged sue, age 17).

A negated fact is the same as a non-negated one.
Only a negated fact can match a negated fact,
and they can be asserted or used in rules.
The only special thing about negation is that
the system will not allow a fact and its negation
in the same knowledge base: it will warn of a contradiction
and will reject the offending fact.

**Negation by failure**

In pythonic conditions, we can use a function ``count``
with a single string argument, a Terms fact (possibly with variables),
that will return the number of facts in the db matching the given one.
We can use this to test for the absence of any given fact
in the knowledge base, and thus have negation by failure.

Some care must be taken with the ``count`` function.
If a fact is entered that might match a pythonic ``count`` condition,
it will never by itself trigger any rule.
Rules are activated by facts matching normal conditions;
and pythonic conditions can only allow or abort
those activations.
In other words, when a fact is added,
it is tested against all normal conditions in all rules,
and if it activates any rule, the pythonic conditions are tested.
An example of this behaviour can be seen
`here <>`_.
If you examine the ontology in the previous link,
you will see that it is obviously wrong;
that's the reason I say that care must be taken.
Counting happens in time,
and it is not advisable to use it without activating time.


In the monotonic classical logic we have depicted so far,
it is very simple to represent physical time:
you only need to add a ``time`` object of type number
to any temporal verb.
However, to represent the present time,
i.e., a changing distinguished instant of time,
this logic is not enough.
We need to use some non-monotonic tricks for that,
that are implemented in Terms as a kind of temporal logic.
This temporal logic can be activated in the settings file::

dbms = postgresql://terms:terms@localhost
dbname = mykb
time = normal

If it is activated, several things happen.

The first is that the system starts tracking the present time.
It has an integer register whose value represents the current time.
This register is updated each time we add new facts.
There are 3 possible values for the ``mode``
setting for time:
If the setting is ``none``, nothing is done with time.
If the setting is ``normal``, the current time of the system is incremented by 1 when it is updated.
If the setting is ``real``, the current time of the system
is updated with Python's ``import time; int(time.time())``.

The second thing that happens is that, rather than defining verbs extending ``exists``,
we use 2 new verbs, ``now`` and ``onwards``, both subtypes of ``exists``.
These new verbs have special ``number`` objects:
``now`` has an ``at_`` object, and ``onwards`` a ``since_`` and a ``till_`` objects.

The third is that the system starts keeping 2 different factsets,
one for the present and one for the past.
All reasoning occurs in the present factset.
When we add a fact made with these verbs, the system automatically adds
to ``now`` an ``at_`` object and to ``onwards`` a ``since_`` object,
both with the value of its "present" register.
The ``till_`` object of ``onwards`` facts is left undefined.
We never explicitly set those objects.
When added, ``now`` facts go through the rule network, producing consecuences,
and then are added to the past factset;
``onwards`` facts go through the rules network and then are added
to the present factset.
Queries for ``now`` facts go to the past factset,
and those for ``onwards`` facts are done against the present.
We might say that the facts in the present factset are in
present continuous tense.

The fourth thing that happens when we activate the temporal logic
is that we can use a new predicate in the consecuances of our rules:
``finish``. We use it with an ``onwards`` fact: ``finish (<fact>).``
And when a rule with such a consecuence is activated,
it grabs the provided fact from the present factset,
adds to it a ``till_`` object with the present time as value,
removes it from the present factset,
and adds it to the past factset.
The system keeps track of the ancestry of facts obtained by reasoning,
and when a fact is finished, its descent (if otherwise unsupported)
is also finished.

There is also the temporal verb ``unique``, subverb of ``onwards``.
The peculiarity of ``unique`` is that whenever a fact with
such verb is added to the knowledge base,
any previous present facts with the same subject and verb are ``finish``ed.


Right now the query language of Terms is a bit limited.
Queries are facts, with or without variables.
If the query contains no variables, the answer will be ``true``
for presence of the asked facts or ``false`` for their absence.
To find out whether a fact is negated we must query its negation.

If we include variables in the query,
we will obtain all the variable substitutions
that would produce a ``true`` query.

**Miscelaneous technical notes.**

* I have shown several different kinds of variables,
for things, for verbs, for numbers, for facts.
But the logic behind Terms is first order,
there is only one kind of individuals,
and the proliferation of kinds of variables
is just syntactic sugar.
``Person1`` would be equivalent to something like
"for all x, x is a person and x...".
``LovesVerb1`` would be equivalent to something like
"for all x, a x is a loves and x...".

* The design of the system is such that
both adding new facts (with their consecuences)
and querying for facts should be independent of
the size of the knowledge base.
The only place where we depend on the size of the data
is in arithmetic conditions,
since at present number objects are not indexed as such.

* The Python section of the rules is ``exec``ed
with a dict with the ``condition`` variable in locals
and an empty dict as globals. We might add whatever we
like as globals; for example, numpy.

Installation and usage


Python 3 (tested on 3.2, 3.3).

Python libraries (these should be pulled by ``easy_install``):
* ply
* sqlalchemy

Some RDBM system compatible with sqlalchemy (tested with postgreqsl and sqlite).

To run the tests, you need the ``nose`` framework.


It is advisable to install in a virtualenv.

If you have setuptools installed in your python,
you can simply use ``easy_install``, from a command line::

# easy_install Terms

Alternatively you can download `the tarball <>`_,
uncompress it,
``cd`` into the extracted directory,
and run ``python3 install``.


Once installed, you should have a ``terms`` script,
that provides a REPL.

If you just type ``terms`` in the command line,
you will get a command line interpreter,
bound to an in-memory sqlite database.

If you want to make your Terms knowledge store persistent,
You have to write a small configuration file ``~/.terms.cfg``::

dbms = sqlite:////path/to/my/kbs
dbname = mykb
time = none

Then you must initialize the knowledge store::

$ initterms mykb

And now you can start the REPL::

$ terms mykb

In the configuration file you can put as many
sections (e.g., ``[mykb]``) as you like,
one for each knowledge store.

To use PostgreSQL, you need the psycopg2 package,
that you can get with easy_install. Of course,
you need PostgreSQL and its header files for that::

$ easy_install Terms[PG]

The specified database must exist if you use
and the terms user (specified in the config file in the dbms URL)
must be able to create and drop tables and indexes::

dbms = postgresql://terms:terms@localhost
dbname = testkb
time = none

So, for example, once you are set, open the REPL::

eperez@calandria$ initterms mykb
eperez@calandria$ terms mykb
>>> a person is a thing.
>>> loves is exists, subj a person, who a person.
>>> john is a person.
>>> sue is a person.
>>> (loves john, who sue).
>>> (loves john, who sue)?
>>> (loves sue, who john)?
>>> quit
eperez@calandria$ terms testing
>>> (loves john, who sue)?


There is a `mailing list <>`_ at google groups.
You can also open an issue in `the tracker <>`_.
Or mail me <enriquepablo at google’s mail domain>.

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