Augmenting Thesaurus Relationships: Possibilities for Retrieval


  • Douglas Tudhope School of Computing, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd CF37 1DL, UK
  • Harith Alani Department of Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton University SO17 1BJ, UK
  • Christopher Jones Department of Computer Science, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF24 3XF, UK


This paper discusses issues concerning the augmentation of thesaurus relationships, in light of new application possibilities for retrieval. We first discuss a case study that explored the retrieval potential of an augmented set of thesaurus relationships by specialising standard relationships into richer subtypes, in particular hierarchical geographical containment and the associative relationship. We then locate this work in a broader context by reviewing various attempts to build taxonomies of thesaurus relationships, and conclude by discussing the feasibility of hierarchically augmenting the core set of thesaurus relationships, particularly the associative relationship. We discuss the possibility of enriching the specification and semantics of Related Term (RT relationships), while maintaining compatibility with traditional thesauri via a limited hierarchical extension of the associative (and hierarchical) relationships. This would be facilitated by distinguishing the type of term from the (sub)type of relationship and explicitly specifying semantic categories for terms following a faceted approach. We first illustrate how hierarchical spatial relationships can be used to provide more flexible retrieval for queries incorporating place names in applications employing online gazetteers and geographical thesauri. We then employ a set of experimental scenarios to investigate key issues affecting use of the associative (RT) thesaurus relationships in semantic distance measures. Previous work has noted the potential of RTs in thesaurus search aids but also the problem of uncontrolled expansion of query term sets. Results presented in this paper suggest the potential for taking account of the hierarchical context of an RT link and specialisations of the RT relationship.