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Re: [ontolog-forum] Taxonomies and Ontologies

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Duane Nickull <dnickull@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 15:27:56 -0700
Message-id: <42D5956C.1030903@xxxxxxxxx>
My $0.02 CAD worth
(note the addition of a "contextual" qualifier of currency code to the 
ages old cliche ;-)    (01)

My understanding (which is subject to argument and I do invite them if 
it is errant) is that taxonomy is the simplest form of an ontology or 
parts thereof.  Taxonomies are often defined as a tree structure of 
categories and subcategories.    (02)

Ontologies OTOH, add more information to taxonomic structures.  This may 
include the specific nature of the associations between taxonomy nodes 
(categories), higher and lower level axioms and logic to both provide 
context and/or further specialize the concepts and the logical 
statements/axioms about those relationships and contextual qualifiers. 
This is important to add in the conceptualization of a specific or 
generalized domain.    (03)

While Taxonomies tend to be simple and declarative in nature, ontologies 
are robust enough to allow logical conclusions (inference) to be drawn 
from them.    (04)

I also espouse eating our own dog food!!  Accordingly, I wanted to see 
what SUMO said about each Ontology and taxonomy:    (05)

        According to WordNet, the Noun"ontology" has 1 sense(s).    (06)

1. the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence.    (07)

        According to WordNet, the Noun"taxonomy" has 3 sense(s).    (08)

1. a classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of 
structure or origin etc.    (09)

    * SUMO Equivalents: List    (010)

<http://berkelium.teknowledge.com:8080/sigma/skb.jsp?req=skb_sr&skb=SUMO_skb&term=List>    (011)

2. (biology) study of the general principles of scientific classification.    (012)

    * SUMO Equivalents: FieldOfStudy    (013)

<http://berkelium.teknowledge.com:8080/sigma/skb.jsp?req=skb_sr&skb=SUMO_skb&term=FieldOfStudy>    (014)

3. practice of classifying plants and animals according to their 
presumed natural relationships.    (015)

    * SUMO Equivalents: Classifying    (016)

<http://berkelium.teknowledge.com:8080/sigma/skb.jsp?req=skb_sr&skb=SUMO_skb&term=Classifying>    (017)

This seems to be somewhat ambiguous at the least but generally in 
alignment with the posts to date.    (018)

Duane Nickull    (019)

Chris Menzel wrote:    (020)

>On Wed, Jul 13, 2005 at 08:55:28AM -0700, Jayne E Dutra wrote:
>>I am looking for material regarding the relationship between
>>ontologies and taxonomies. 
>Well, I suppose my own take counts as "material" of a certain possibly
>useless and annoying sort. :-)  But to make at least a gesture in
>someone else's direction, while I find a lot of his stuff quirky, I
>think John Sowa's paper "Building, Sharing, and Merging Ontologies"
>(http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/ontoshar.htm) is quite helpful and
>informative.  As for me:
>Short answer:  A taxonomy is a type of ontology that describes a
>hierarchy of classes.
>Long, soporific, needlessly technical logician's answer:  In my view, an
>ontology is, most fundamentally, a set of statements in a syntactically
>well-defined, knowledge representation language.  Typically, for a given
>ontology, the KR language in which the ontology is expressed is
>"interpreted", in the sense that the language has an associated
>"intended" domain (e.g., California wines, classes of automobiles, etc)
>and its basic constructs all have associated "intended" meanings (e.g.,
>the predicate "RedWine" indicates the property of being a red wine).
>Any well-defined KR language should be translatable into (perhaps a
>sublanguage of) a first-order language, so, theoretically, an ontology
>is an axiomatic theory in an (interpreted) first-order language.
>A taxonomy, then, is a special case of an ontology describing a
>hierarchy of classes (or "categories") in some domain of interest.  A
>"pure" taxonomy provides nothing more than a description of the
>hierarchy; that is, a pure taxonomy supplies only a vocabulary of class
>names and a collection of parent-child, or "inheritance", relationships
>holding among the named classes.  
>Graphical languages provide the most vivid representations of pure
>taxonomies, of course, but are easily translated into more traditional
>first-order equivalent (notably, where the arrows, say, of the graphical
>language expressing the "parent-child" relation between classes in the
>hierarchy are replaced by a binary predicate symbol) .  Once you start
>adding further axioms imposing more detailed, nonstructural constraints
>on the classes in a hierarchy (and their instances) you move away from a
>"pure" taxonomy in the direction of a general ontology.  Thus, an
>ontology might -- but, in general, need not -- be based upon a pure
>Or so it all seems to me. :-)
>Chris Menzel
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