Towards a language for mapping relationships among taxonomic concepts

N. M. Franz, R. K. Peet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Taxonomic concepts (sensu Berendsohn) embody the underlying meanings of scientific names as stated in a particular publication, thus offering a new way to resolve semantic ambiguities that result from multiple revisions of a taxonomic name. This paper presents a comprehensive and powerful language for representing the relationships among taxonomic concepts. The language features terms and symbols for concept relationships within a single taxonomic hierarchy, or between two related but independently published hierarchies. Taxonomic concepts pertaining to a single hierarchy are characterised by parent/child relationships, whereas those pertaining to two independent hierarchies may have the following basic relationships: congruence, inclusion (non-symmetrical, relative to the side of comparison), overlap, and exclusion. The relationships are asserted by specialists who have the option to add or subtract concepts on one or both sides of a relationship equation in order to reconcile differences between non-congruent taxonomic perspectives. The terms and, or and not are available, respectively, to connect multiple simultaneously or alternatively valid relationship assessments, or to explicitly negate the validity of a relationship. The language also permits the decomposition of a relationship according to the intensional (property referencing) and ostensive (member pointing) aspects of the compared taxonomic concepts. Adopting the concept relationship language will facilitate a more precise documentation of similarities and differences in multiple succeeding taxonomic perspectives, thereby preparing the stage for an ontology-based integration of taxonomic and related biological information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
JournalSystematics and Biodiversity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity databases
  • Data integration
  • Linnaean nomenclature
  • Ontology
  • Semantic Web
  • Taxonomic concepts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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