Distinguishing Properties and Relations in the Denotation of Adjectives: An Empirical Investigation

  • Matthias HartungEmail author
  • Anette Frank
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 94)


We empirically investigate the task of classifying adjectives into property-denoting vs. relational types, a distinction that is highly relevant for ontology learning. The feasibility of this task is evaluated in two experiments: (i) a corpus study based on human annotations and (ii) an automatic classification experiment. We observe that token-level annotation of these classes is expensive and difficult. Yet, a careful corpus analysis reveals that adjective classes tend to be stable on the type level, with few occurrences of class shifts observed at the token level. As a consequence, we opt for an automatic classification approach that operates on the type level. Training on heuristically labeled data yields high classification performance on our own data and on a data set compiled from WordNet. Our results indicate that it is feasible to automatically distinguish property-denoting and relational adjectives, even if only small amounts of annotated data are available. A combination of semantic, morphological and shallow syntactic features turns out to be most informative for the task.


Adjective classification Properties Relations Corpus study 



The authors thank the annotators for their efforts and three anonymous reviewers of the final and an earlier version of this paper for highly valuable comments. As this article is a revised and extended version of Hartung and Frank (2010a), we also gratefully acknowledge the permission of the European Language Resources Association (ELRA) to republish the material.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computational Linguistics DepartmentHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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