Visiting DERI in sunny Galway

Believe it it not, but the weather is indeed dry and sunny in Galway, already for 5 days in a row; although I did not come to Ireland for the good weather, it is a nice bonus. One of the reasons I am in Ireland is to visit the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) in Galway, which is the largest Semantic Web-oriented research group in Ireland with about 120 employees.

I am hosted by Paul Buitelaar‘s NLP unit, looking into options to improve NLP implementations with ontologies, as DERI puts somewhat more emphasis on validation with applications than Bolzano does. In this context I gave a seminar about representing and reasoning over a taxonomy of part-whole relations, which is based on the Applied Ontology paper with the same title [1], but where the slides focus on the motivations from a linguistics perspective. It led some attendees to believe linguistics was the core motivation for disambiguating different types of part-whole relations. However, correct modelling of part-whole relations gets probably more attention in conceptual data modelling (primarily, UML) and it receives lots of attention in attempting to address the demands put forward by bio(medical) ontologists to (i) have a language with which one can represent all properties of parthood relations in ontology languages, which we still cannot in OWL, and (ii) distinguish between part-whole notions such as (spatial) containment, structural parthood, and membership of a collective.

An orthogonal dimension to the types of part-whole relations are the notions of essential and immutable parts and wholes, which can be solved by resorting to a temporalisation of relationships [2]. If one would want to ‘translate’ that to any usage in NLP, then one can deal adequately—with a formal and ontological foundation—with linguistic expressions that have a wider range of verb tenses, like “researcherAbc will become a member of researchGroup123” (a scheduled meronymic part-whole relation) and heart#123 has been transplanted from patientAbc” (a so-called disabled relation where the heart used to be a structural part of that patient). But this is still music for future work.

Other topics passed, and are passing, the revue as well, such as a possible use case with roles and rules with Axel Polleres, making it a stimulating and enjoyable visit.

References

[1] Keet, C.M. and Artale, A. Representing and Reasoning over a Taxonomy of Part-Whole Relations. Applied Ontology, 2008, 3(1-2): 91-110.

[2] Artale, A., Guarino, N., and Keet, C.M. Formalising temporal constraints on part-whole relations. 11th International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR’08). Gerhard Brewka, Jerome Lang (Eds.) AAAI Press, pp 673-683. Sydney, Australia, September 16-19, 2008.

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