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Lexical Inheritance with Meronymic Relationships


In most computational ontologies, information inheritance is based on the taxonomic relation is_a. A given type inherits from other type only if the latter subsumes the former. We assume, however, that inheritance can be related, not only to the taxonomic relation, but also to the meronymic relationship between parts and wholes. The main aim of this paper is to organise upper-level ontologies associated with lexical information by taking into account part-whole subsumption. As we consider that parts may subsume wholes under specific conditions, ontologies can be defined in terms of systems in which wholes inherit information from its parts. In this article, we describe how part-whole subsumption and, then, meronymic inheritance can be used to deal with type mismatch and metonymic interpretation of polysemous nouns. For this purpose, we attempt to merge old assumptions from both formal ontology and lexical semantics into a homogeneous framework.

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Fig. 1


  1. To simplify, nouns, proper names and nominal phrases are semantically interpreted in the same way.

  2. In research on formal ontology, holes are not considered as mere spatial locations but as physical objects which never have matter associated in any location; they are not spaces but rather immaterial objects. For the general purpose of this article, the ontological difference between bounded spaces and immaterial objects will not be taken into account.

  3. By contrast, grinding metonymies (lamb-animal versus lamb-food, see Copestake and Briscoe 1995) represent those cases where the object is still identified by means of the same noun even when the spatial properties (shape and size) of the whole spatio-material configuration have been lost.


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This work has been supported by the Spanish Government (MICINN), within the project FFI2010-14986.

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Correspondence to Pablo Gamallo.

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Gamallo, P. Lexical Inheritance with Meronymic Relationships. Axiomathes 23, 165–185 (2013).

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  • Formal ontology
  • Mereology
  • Lexical semantics
  • Inheritance