Of Lions and Yakshis: Ontology-based Narrative Structure Modelling for Culturally Diverse Folktales

Tracking #: 2442-3656

Franziska Pannach
Caroline Sporleder
Wolfgang May
Aravind Krishnan
Anusharani Sewchurran

Responsible editor: 
Special Issue Cultural Heritage 2019

Submission type: 
Full Paper
Vladimir Propp's theory Morphology of the Folktale identifies 31 invariant functions, subfunctions, and seven classes of folktale characters to describe the narrative structure of the Russian magic tale. Since it was first published in 1928, Propp's approach has been used on various folktales of different cultural backgrounds. We built an ontology that models Propp's theory by describing narrative functions using a combination of a function class hierarchy and characteristic relationships between the Dramatis Personae for each function. A special focus lies on the restrictions Propp defined regarding which Dramatis Personae fulfill a certain function. We investigated how an ontology can assist traditional Humanities research in examining how well Propp's theory fits for folktales outside of the Russian-European folktale culture. For this purpose, a lightweight query system has been implemented. To determine how well both the annotation schema and the query system works, we annotated twenty African tales, and fifteen tales from the Kerala region in India. We evaluate the system by examining two case studies regarding the representation of characters and the use of Proppian functions in African and Indian tales. Our findings are in line with traditional analogous Humanities research. This project shows how carefully modelled ontologies can represent and re-evaluate traditional theories of literary scholars, and how they can be utilized as a knowledge base for comparative folklore research.
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Solicited Reviews:
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Review #1
Anonymous submitted on 19/Jul/2020
Review Comment:

It was difficult for me to review the paper for the second time. I expected a cover letter in which the authors answered to my questions one by one. Instead, the authors have reported for each Section I have indicated in my previous review, only a summary of the provided answers. Furthermore, in the text of the revisited paper the changes were not highlighted. In my opinion, the cover letter should help the reviewer to easily and quickly receive direct answers to her/his questions along with the textual parts of the manuscript in which the answers were integrated or that were changed. In this case, I had to find the authors’ answers reading the whole paper and many times I had to compare the current version with the previous one to understand the changes.
Despite my best efforts, I cannot be sure that all my questions were answered. However, I believe that the authors have provided, more or less directly and clearly, the answers to my main questions and have satisfied my main change requests.

Review #2
By Kalliopi Kontiza submitted on 21/Sep/2020
Review Comment:

This manuscript was submitted as 'full paper' and should be reviewed along the usual dimensions for research contributions which include (1) originality, (2) significance of the results, and (3) quality of writing.

The paper had been significantly improved in the current submission and sufficiently addresses the comments and the remarks pointed out in the first review round.

Section 3 `Modeling of the Domain as an Ontology', does communicate clearly at its current form the main novelty aspects of the authors approach. The section introduces the reader to the authors main design choices and presents in detail how their approach is different than previous/existing ones, which highlights the paper's contribution to the interested research community.

Significance of the results
Section 9 `Results and Evaluations' has been enhanced and extended according to all reviewers comments; I would agree that the addition of Anusharani Sewchurran as new co-author and the narrative related to the analysis of the role of female vs. male characters, does provide more insight into the data gathered through the query system and gives an meaningful example to the reader of complementary analysis that can be made based on the collected data. More specifically the discussion presented in subsection 9.1.3, supported by the related literature, indicates the range of analysis work on traditional folktales that can be supported by a modelling ontology.

Quality of Writing
All points of this section have been addressed by the authors. I also welcome the replacement of the pie charts with bar charts, which combine data from African and Indian tales and allow for the reader to make an easier comparison.

Other minor issues to be addressed before finalised version
- Section 4 `Related Work' position should be reviewed and maybe it could be placed just after introduction, as it interrupts the flow of the paper at its current position.
- The `and' at the authors presentation has been misplaced between the 3rd and 4th author instead of the 4th and 5th.
- Add the Section number (since the table mentioned is located at another section) next to the Table 1 reference at page 5, column 1, number 41

Review #3
Anonymous submitted on 22/Sep/2020
Review Comment:

The paper describes an ontology for folktales, which is based on Vladimir Propp's theory 'Morphology of the Folktale'. The aim of the ontology is to assist the analysis of folk tales by humanities researchers. After presenting some background information on Propp's theory, the paper describes the modelling approach, the related work, the design and implementation of the ontology, a tool for semi-automatically extracting information from folk tales (in textual form), the results of an experiment involving the use of the ontology for analysing and comparing African and Indian folk tales, the limitations and plans for future work.

In their revised submission, the authors have addressed all reviewers' comments. The paper now describes in a clearer way the design and implementation of the ontology and its relation with existing ontologies, and includes new content on its evaluation.

I believe that the paper would be a very interesting contribution to the special issue and that it is now almost ready for publication. There are only some minor points (mostly typos and minor language errors) that the authors need to address before submitting the final version:

Section 1

- Add the full term for the acronyms ATU and TMI at the first instance you use them in the paper (last paragraph of Section 1).

- In the same paragraph: "Related work is discusses" -> "Related work is discussed"

Section 2.1:

- Change the following phrase to a proper sentence: "Propp set four axioms [3, p.21-23]:”

- “heros” -> “heroes”

Section 3:

- par.7: "URIS" -> "URIs"

Section 3.1

This section does not really describe the complexity of the ontology as its title indicates but the language in which it was implemented. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a separate subsection for this (especially since this is the only subsection of Section 3) and would suggest to merge it with the rest of Section 3.

Section 6.4

- par.5: "or created ourselves" -> "or created by ourselves"

- par.6: "an illustration on a Proppian function instance" -> "an illustration of a Proppian function instance"

Some further suggestions for the final version:

- Consider moving the Related Work Section either before or after the sections that present the ontology, i.e. directly after Section 2 or before Section 8
- The titles of Sections 5, 6 and 7 are too short and not very informative. Consider renaming them, for example, as "Data Sources", "Ontology Design" and "Ontology implementation"