A logic approach to modelling nomenclatural change

Nico Franz, Chao Zhang, Joohyung Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We utilize an Answer Set Programming (ASP) approach to show that the principles of nomenclature are tractable in computational logic. To this end we design a hypothetical, 20 nomenclatural taxon use case, with starting conditions that embody several overarching principles of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, including Binomial Nomenclature, Priority, Coordination, Homonymy, Typification and the structural requirement of Gender Agreement. The use case ending conditions are triggered by the reinterpretation of the diagnostic features of one of 12 type specimens anchoring the corresponding species-level epithets. Permutations of this child-to-parent reassignment action lead to 36 alternative scenarios, where each scenario requires a set of 1–14 logically contingent nomenclatural emendations. We show that an ASP transition system approach can correctly infer the Code-mandated changes for each scenario, and visually output the ending conditions. The results provide a foundation for further developing logic-based nomenclatural change optimization and validation services, which could be applied in global nomenclatural registries. More generally, logic explorations of nomenclatural and taxonomic change scenarios provide a novel means of assessing design biases inherent in the principles of nomenclature, and can therefore inform the design of future, big data-compatible identifier systems that recognize and mitigate these constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-357
Number of pages22
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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