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Using part–whole relations for automatic deduction of compound-internal relations in GermaNet


This paper provides a deduction-based approach for automatically classifying compound-internal relations in GermaNet, the German version of the Princeton WordNet for English. More specifically, meronymic relations between simplex and compound nouns provide the necessary input to the deduction patterns that involve different types of compound-internal relations. The scope of these deductions extends to all four meronymic relations modeled in version 6.0 of GermaNet: component, member, substance, and portion. This deduction-based approach provides an effective method for automatically enriching the set of semantic relations included in GermaNet.

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  1. In this paper, the term part–whole relation is sometimes abbreviated as PWR and the term meronymy/holonymy is often used synonymously.

  2. As a matter of fact, only one of these relations is manually encoded since the inverse relation can be automatically inferred.

  3. Component meronymy as the default class contains very heterogeneous examples. This influences the compound-internal relation “<head> has <modifier>” in the way that its interpretation covers a very broad spectrum.

  4. We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of this paper for this suggestion.

  5. These figures are as of GermaNet release 6.0, April 2011.

  6. Other examples of this kind are Nusskuchen ‘nut cake’, Hefeteig ‘yeast dough’, and Wasserbett ‘water bed’.

  7. Other examples of this kind are Brustkorb ‘ribcage’, Kehlkopf ‘larynx’, Glühfadenlampe ‘incandescent lamp’, and Schienbein ‘shin’.


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We are very grateful to our research assistant Sarah Schulz, who helped us substantially revise the part–whole relations for GermaNet release 6.0. We would like to thank our colleague Christina Hoppermann and three anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks go to Harald Baayen for stimulating discussions and valuable input on future directions for research. Financial support for the first and second author was provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the Collaborative Research Center ‘Emergence of Meaning’ (SFB 833) and by the German Ministry of Education and Technology (BMBF) as part of the research grant CLARIN-D. Additional support for the third author was provided by the German Research Foundation as part of the joint research grant ‘Semantic Information Retrieval (SIR-III)’ of the Universities of Darmstadt and Tübingen.

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Correspondence to Verena Henrich.



The newly modeled conceptual part–whole relations involving compounds in GermaNet allow for the deduction of 11 different compound-internal semantic relations. These deductions are summarized in Table 9.

Table 9 Overview of all deduced compound-internal relations

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Hinrichs, E., Henrich, V. & Barkey, R. Using part–whole relations for automatic deduction of compound-internal relations in GermaNet. Lang Resources & Evaluation 47, 839–858 (2013).

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  • Part–whole relations
  • Meronymy
  • Holonymy
  • German wordnet
  • GermaNet
  • Compounds
  • Compound-internal relations