International Conference on Conceptual Modeling

ER 2000: Conceptual Modeling — ER 2000 pp 210-224

Ontological Analysis of Taxonomic Relationships

  • Nicola Guarino
  • Christopher Welty
Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/3-540-45393-8_16

Volume 1920 of the book series Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS)
Cite this paper as:
Guarino N., Welty C. (2000) Ontological Analysis of Taxonomic Relationships. In: Laender A.H.F., Liddle S.W., Storey V.C. (eds) Conceptual Modeling — ER 2000. ER 2000. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 1920. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg


Taxonomies based on a partial-ordering relation commonly known as is-a, class inclusion or subsumption have become an important tool in conceptual modeling. A well-formed taxonomy has significant implications for understanding, reuse, and integration, however the intuitive simplicity of taxonomic relations has led to widespread misuse, making clear the need for rigorous analysis techniques. Where previous work has focused largely on the semantics of the is-a relation itself, we concentrate here on the ontological nature of the arguments of this relation, in order to be able to tell whether a single is-a link is ontologically well-founded. For this purpose, we discuss techniques based on the philosophical notions of identity, unity, essence, and dependence, which have been adapted to the needs of information systems design. We demonstrate the effectiveness of these techniques by taking real examples of poorly structured taxonomies, and revealing cases of invalid generalization. The result of the analysis is a cleaner taxonomy that clarifies the modeler’s ontological commitments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Guarino
    • 1
  • Christopher Welty
    • 2
  1. 1.LADSEB/CNRPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Vassar CollegePoughkeepsieNY