University of Zurich University of Zurich University of Zurich

Attempto Project

Attempto is a research project of the University of Zurich with the objective to develop Attempto Controlled English (ACE) and its tools. The project Attempto is jointly supported by the Department of Informatics and the Institute of Computational Linguistics.

Attempto Controlled English (ACE) is a controlled natural language, i.e. a rich subset of standard English designed to serve as knowledge representation language. ACE allows users to express texts precisely, and in the terms of their respective application domain. As any language, ACE must be learned to be used competently, but this amounts to learning the differences between ACE and full English, formulated as a small set of ACE construction and interpretation rules. To simplify using ACE we have been developing the ACE Editor that helps users to construct correct ACE texts without having to learn it. Once written, ACE texts can be read and understood by anybody.

ACE and its tools are intended for professionals who want to use formal notations and formal methods, but may not be familiar with them. Thus the Attempto system has been designed in a way that allows users to work solely on the level of ACE without having to take recourse to its internal logic representation.

ACE appears perfectly natural, but — being a controlled subset of English — is in fact a formal language. ACE texts are computer-processable and can be unambiguously translated into discourse representation structures, a syntactic variant of first-order logic. Discourse representation structures derived from ACE texts have been translated into various other languages, for instance into FOL, FLUX, RuleML, R2ML, TPTP, and a rule format to be used for Courteous Logic Programs and for stable model semantics. Using discourse representation structures as inter-lingua we have developed a bidirectional translation of ACE into and from OWL 2 and a translation into SWRL.

ACE has been used in several applications. It was adopted as the controlled language of the EU Network of Excellence REWERSE (Reasoning on the Web with Semantics and Rules) and of the Yale project ERGO (Authoring Clinical Practice Guidelines). Recently, ACE and its tools have been used in the EU project MOLTO (Multilingual Online Translation).

See also: Research Database of the University of Zurich (project 924, project 5883 and project 17781).

What does "Attempto" stand for?

No, it is not an acronym.

No, it is not a misspelling of "[an] attempt to ..." as somebody suggested.

Actually, Attempto ("I dare" in Latin) was the motto of Graf Eberhard im Barte ("Duke Eberhard the Bearded") who in 1477 founded the University of Tubingen, Germany. More than five-hundred years later, Attempto was the motto of Norbert E. Fuchs — a graduate of the University of Tubingen — when he started the Attempto project at the University of Zurich in 1995, defying "has been tried, can't be done" statements of some big shots in the field of computerlinguistics that Norbert had asked for advice.

last updated: 23 Sep 2013 [back to top | home]