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Related Terms -- lateral, searchable, relationships in Thesaurus

Related Terms -- lateral, searchable, relationships in Thesaurus

Many standard Thesauri include both vertical (broader/narrower or parent/child) relationships between terms and lateral relationships ("related terms") between terms as well as synonyms ("alternate terms"). Related Terms allows two distinct terms (separate Thesaurus records/columns) to be described separately and related as near to equal but not exactly synonymous.

Take Ch'an Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, for example. They are historically linked and quite similar in concept, but the Chinese version (Ch'an) may be considered notably different from the Japanese (Zen). From a query perspective, I may wish to search for "Zen" or for "Ch'an" specifically. But, I may also wish to allow a broader query that will include Zen when Ch'an is queried or Ch'an when Zen is queried.

While EMu offers a Related Terms field in the Thesaurus Module, it has no real query functionality. The #+ operator does not include it in Thesaurus searches and no other operator exists to include it in a search. Furthermore, the relationship created in that field is not reciprocal and no reverse attachment field seems to exist for it. If I link Ch'an to Zen as a related term, there is no indication in the record for the term Zen that Ch'an lists it as related. While I know that fully reciprocal relationships do not exist in EMu, it would be extremely useful, I think, to have some indication that a link has been made on both related records, and to have some means of including Related Terms in queries.

Has anyone else struggled with handling these relationships in the Thesaurus Module? Any suggestions for workarounds?

Many thanks!

Will

Will Scott
Museum & Database Consulting
Philadelphia, PA / New York, NY

Will Scott
Museum & Database Consulting
www.willscottconsulting.com

Will Scott (Museum & Database Consultant)
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Re: Related Terms -- lateral, searchable, relationships in Thesaurus

A review of ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 supports these points. Relationships should be reciprocal; and, "near synonyms" are addressed. The selected quotes below have been extracted from that standard. Please note that, on its own, this post does not provide a full overview of the treatment of these topics in Z39.19.

A full copy in pdf format is available from Z39.19-2005 at NISO.org.

8.1.1 Indicating Relationships Among Terms
"A basic property of relationships in controlled vocabularies is that they are reciprocal; that is, each
relationship indicated between Term A and Term B must have a corresponding relationship from
Term B to Term A. This rule must be observed for all types of relationships.
The conventional abbreviations for relationship indicators are used in the examples below. Additional
abbreviations for specialized purposes are found in the following sections. (A complete list of
abbreviations used in this Standard appears in section 4.2.)
The relationship indicators are always paired operators. Some indicators are symmetric while others
are asymmetric as illustrated below:
• Related Term (RT) is symmetric:
If Term A RT Term B, then Term B RT Term A
• Preferred Term (Equivalency) – USE and UF are asymmetric:
If Term A USE Term B, then Term B UF Term A
• Hierarchical Relationships – BT and NT are asymmetric:
If Term A BT Term B then Term B NT Term A."

AND

8.2.3 Near-Synonyms

"Near-synonyms are terms whose meanings are generally regarded as different, but which are treated
as equivalents for the purposes of a controlled vocabulary." [...]

Will Scott
Museum & Database Consulting
www.willscottconsulting.com

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Re: Related Terms -- lateral, searchable, relationships in Thesaurus

We have a ton of "Near Synonyms" that we can't easily search for right now in our Thesaurus.  #+ just doesn't get us all we are looking for either.

Leslie S. Mio
Assistant Registrar / Loan Coordinator / EMu Administrative Team
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