Metamodeling: Wikis


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Example of a eologic map information meta-model, with four types of meta-objects, and their self-references.[1]

Metamodeling, or meta-modeling in software engineering and systems engineering among other disciplines, is the analysis, construction and development of the frames, rules, constraints, models and theories applicable and useful for modeling a predefined class of problems. As its name implies, this concept applies the notions of meta- and modeling.



"Metamodeling" is the construction of a collection of "concepts" (things, terms, etc.) within a certain domain. A model is an abstraction of phenomena in the real world; a metamodel is yet another abstraction, highlighting properties of the model itself. A model conforms to its metamodel in the way that a computer program conforms to the grammar of the programming language in which it is written.

Common uses for metamodels are:

  • As a schema for semantic data that needs to be exchanged or stored
  • As a language that supports a particular method or process
  • As a language to express additional semantics of existing information

Because of the "meta" character of metamodeling, both the praxis and theory of metamodels are of relevance to metascience, metaphilosophy, metatheories and systemics, and meta-consciousness. The concept can be useful in mathematics, and has practical applications in computer science and computer engineering/software engineering, which are the main focus of this article.

Metamodeling topics

Meta-Object Facility Illustration.
Example of an ontology.
A DoDAF metamodel.


In software engineering, the use of models is more and more recommended. This should be contrasted with the classical code-based development techniques. A model always conforms to a unique metamodel. One of the currently most active branch of Model Driven Engineering is the approach named model-driven architecture proposed by OMG. This approach is based on the utilization of a language to write metamodels called the Meta Object Facility or MOF. Typical metamodels proposed by OMG are UML, SysML, SPEM or CWM. ISO has also published the standard metamodel ISO/IEC 24744[3]. All the languages presented below could be defined as MOF metamodels.

Metadata modeling

Metadata modeling is a type of metamodeling used in software engineering and systems engineering for the analysis and construction of models applicable and useful to some predefined class of problems.

Model transformations

One important move in Model Driven Engineering is the systematic use of Model Transformation Languages. The OMG has proposed a standard for this called QVT for Queries/Views/Transformations. QVT is based on the Meta-Object Facility or MOF. Among many other Model Transformation Languages (MTLs), some examples of implementations of this standard are AndroMDA, VIATRA, Tefkat, MT, ManyDesigns Portofino.

Relationship to ontologies

Meta-models are closely related to ontologies. Both are often used to describe and analyze the relations between concepts[4]

  • Ontologies : express something meaningful within a specified universe or domain of discourse by utilizing a grammar for using vocabulary. The grammar specifies what it means to be a well-formed statement, assertion, query, etc. (formal constraints) on how terms in the ontology’s controlled vocabulary can be used together. [Metamodel-b]
  • Meta-modeling : can be considered as an explicit description (constructs and rules) of how a domain-specific model is built. In particular, this comprises a formalized specification of the domain-specific notations. Typically, metamodels are – and always should follow - a strict rule set. [Metamodel-a]. “A valid metamodel is an ontology, but not all ontology are modeled explicitly as metamodels” [Metamodel-b].

Types of meta-models

For software engineering, several types of models (and their corresponding modeling activities) can be distinguished:

Zoos of metamodels

A library of similar meta-models has been called a Zoo of meta-models.[5] There are several types of meta-model zoos.[6] Some are expressed in ECore. Others are written in MOF 1.4 - XMI 1.2. The metamodels expressed in UML-XMI1.2 may be uploaded in Poseidon for UML, a UML CASE tool.

See also


  1. ^ David R. Soller et al. (2001) Progress Report on the National Geologic Map Database, Phase 3: An Online Database of Map Information Digital Mapping Techniques '01 -- Workshop Proceedings U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 01-223.
  2. ^ FEA (2005) FEA Records Management Profile, Version 1.0. December 15, 2005.
  3. ^ International Organization for Standardization / International Electrotechnical Commission, 2007. ISO/IEC 24744. Software Engineering - Metamodel for Development Methodologies.
  4. ^ E. Söderström, et al. (2001) "Towards a Framework for Comparing Process Modelling Languages", in: Lecture Notes In Computer Science; Vol. 2348. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering. Pages: 600 – 611, 2001
  5. ^ Jean-Marie Favre: Towards a Basic Theory to Model Driven Engineering..
  6. ^ AtlanticZoo.

Further reading

  • J. Bezivin, On the Unification Power of Models, in: Software and System Modeling (SoSym) 4(2):171—188.
  • Booch, G., Rumbaugh, J., Jacobson, I. (1999), The Unified Modeling Language User Guide, Redwood City, CA: Addison Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Johannes Ernst, What is metamodeling? 11.10.2002.
  • J. P. van Gigch, System Design Modeling and Metamodeling, Plenum Press, New York, 1991
  • Gonzalez-Perez, C. and B. Henderson-Sellers, 2008. Metamodelling for Software Engineering. Chichester (UK): Wiley. 210 p. ISBN 9780470030363
  • M.A. Jeusfeld, M. Jarke, and J. Mylopoulos, 2009. Metamodeling for Method Engineering. Cambridge (USA): The MIT Press. 424 p. ISBN 9780262101080
  • Woody Pidcock, What are the differences between a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a thesaurus, an ontology, and a meta-model?
  • G. Caplat Modèles & Métamodèles, 2008 - ISBN 978-2-88074-749-7 (French)

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