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Part-whole relations in theory and practice

Keywords:

N.V. Loukachevitch


The part-whole relation plays an important role in many domains. The necessity to describe this relation appears during development of such different resources as information-retrieval thesauri, linguistic resources for natural language processing, ontologies, in object-oriented programming. For computer applications the transitivity of part-whole relations is especially important because it can be used in logical inference. One of interesting features of this relation is its diversity, it can be established between such different entities as physical objects, geographical regions, properties and states, collections and sets and others. Philosophical branch that studies part-whole relations – mereology – does not restrict subtypes of parts and wholes establishing several main axioms for the relation. The absence of restrictions on participants of part-whole relations leads to another problem when this relation is difficult to distinguish from similar relations. Besides, developers often encounter visible cases of violations of part-whole relation transitivity. The important point for the part-whole relation study is co-existence and dependence of existence of the part and its whole. In our opinion this consideration is important for description of this relation retaining its transitivity. In this paper we will consider main problems of description of the part-whole relation in computer resources, its definitions in philosophy and linguistics. Then we will describe the principles of establishing part-wholes relations in linguitic ontology – thesaurus of Russian language RuThes, intended for natural language processing in information-retrieval applications such as automatic conceptual indexing, automatic text categorization, automatic summarization and others.
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