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This paper addresses the problem of identifying semantic entities (e.g., events, objects, concepts etc.) in a particular environment (e.g., a multimedia document, a scene, a signal etc.) by means of an appropriately modelled semantic encyclopedia. Each semantic entity in the encyclopedia is defined in terms of other semantic entities as well as low level features, which we call syntactic entities, in a hierarchical scheme. Furthermore, a methodology is introduced, which can be used to evaluate the direct contribution of every syntactic feature of the document to the identification of semantic entities. This information allows us to estimate the quality of the result as well as the required computational cost of the search procedure and to balance between them. Our approach could be particularly important in real time and/or bulky search/indexing applications.