(RQT) Character and item hierarchy

Gregor Hagedorn G.Hagedorn at BBA.DE
Wed Dec 1 16:26:11 CET 1999

Jean-Marc Vanel wrote under the Subject:
  RDF Schema design pb: inheritance of properties
  (Subject renamed, because this post refers to
  issues secondary to the original post)

> There is a containment hierarchy (e. g. a flower contains petals)
> raises no problems in XML.

I would like to challenge this assumption, which seems to be
generally accepted in the discussion here.

It is true: Morphological structures may have containment
hierarchies, but I believe that these depent strongly on the
viewpoint of the author or user.

EXAMPLE 1: The peduncle (stalk of a flower) is usually assumed to be
part of the flower, but anatomically it is clearly a part of the stem
(in contrast to the petiole, stalk of a leaf!).

EXAMPLE 2: Stuff can be in-between: The inflorescence contains part
of stem, part of leaves, and all flowers. Which leaves are part of
inflorescens and thus called bracts, and which aren't is often a
matter of taste, school, country...

Thus: there are multiple concurrent or competing hierarchies, which
may overlap.

EXAMPLE 3: Further, other, non-morphological
hierarchies/classifications exist. These may be much more relevant
for many purposes, and may be the primary outline used in a natural
language description. For example, structures can be classified by
function (sexual/asexual propagation), observation method (naked
eye/light microsc./electron microscopy, physiological/molecular etc.

EXAMPLE 3 (leaving morphology altogether): Gene sequences can be
classified as transscribed/non-transscribed, Protein-coding/rRNA
coding/non-coding, intron/exon, regulatory/structural,
conserved/variable/hypervariable etc. Most of these classifications

*** Call for more examples: Can anybody come up with more good
examples (perhaps from animals) as to why a fixed hierarchy in the
form of a feature path may be unpractical?

> Info. for computer men: biology has a hierarchic classification of
> species whose 4 lowest levels are:
> order
> family
> genus
> species

Sorry this is a gross misrepresentation. Info from a biologist:

(incomplete list, reflecting botanical code, and devised with fungi
in mind). Number of ranks is a matter of taste, some people like to
supra and sub [and hyper+hypo? :-) ] everything:

CODE            Description
fsp.            forma specialis nov. -- nomenclatorially facultative
subfm.          subforma nov. -- subform nomenclatorially obligatory
fm.             forma nov. -- form nomenclatorially obligatory
subvar.         subvarietas nov. -- sub-variety nomenclat. obligatory
var.            varietas nov. variety nomenclatorially obligatory
ssp.            subspecies nov. subspecies priority mandatory
sp.             species nov. -- species priority mandatory
subser.         subseries nov. -- subseries priority mandatory
ser.            series nov. -- section priority mandatory
subsect.        subsectio nov. -- subsection priority mandatory
sect.           sectio nov. -- section priority mandatory
subgen.         subgenus nov. -- subgenus priority mandatory
gen.            genus nov. -- genus priority mandatory
subtrib.        subtribus nov. -- subtribus priority mandatory
trib.           tribus nov. -- tribus priority mandatory
subfam.         subfamilia nov. -- subfamily priority mandatory
fam.            familia nov. -- family priority mandatory
superfam.       superfamilia nov. -- super-family priority mandatory
subord.         subordo nov. -- suborder priority facultative
ord.            ordo nov. -- order priority facultative
superord.       superordo nov. -- superorder priority facultative
subclass.       subclassis nov. -- subclass priority facultative
class.          classis nov. -- class priority facultative
subdiv.         subdivisio nov. -- subdivision priority facultative
div.            divisio nov. -- division priority facultative
subreg.         subregnum novum. -- sub-regnum priority facultative
reg.            regnum novum. -- regnum priority facultative

Gregor Hagedorn                 G.Hagedorn at bba.de
Institute for Plant Virology, Microbiology, and Biosafety
Federal Research Center for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA)
Koenigin-Luise-Str. 19          Tel: +49-30-8304-2220
14195 Berlin, Germany           Fax: +49-30-8304-2203

Often wrong but never in doubt!

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