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Revision as of 17:00, 3 May 2016


UMBEL Annex G: UMBEL SuperTypes Documentation

UMBEL Annex Document - 10 May 2016

Latest version
Last update
$Date: 2016/5/10 9:22:47 $
Version No.: 1.50
TR 16-5-10-G
Michael Bergman - Structured Dynamics
Frédérick Giasson - Structured Dynamics

Structured Dynamics Logo

UMBEL: Upper Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer by Structured Dynamics LLC is provided under the
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. See the attribution section for how to cite the effort.

Creative Commons License

Copyright © 2009-2016 by Structured Dynamics LLC.

Beginning with UMBEL version 1.20, statistics regarding numbers of reference concepts (RCs) in the ontology and splits between SuperTypes (STs) and modules have been moved to the statistics Annex Z document. As a result, earlier statistics in this and other annexes are no longer being updated, which means any statistics cited below may be out of date. Please consult Annex Z for the current UMBEL statistics.
Major revisions were made to the SuperTypes in UMBEL version 1.50. For the specifics, see the Updates section below. For prior statistics and discussion, see UMBEL - Annex G 20160510.


As UMBEL has evolved and been used in commerce, consistency and coherency of the knowledge graph have come to be of paramount importance. Misassignments undercut the coherency of the system and lower the ability of UMBEL to be used in a computable manner.

Further, the large size and need for frequent updates also place a premium on an UMBEL system that can be built automatically from rather simple input specifications.

The initial introduction of SuperTypes to UMBEL began to show the way to a more systematic way to build and organize the system. Early build routines were first introduced in UMBEL version 1.10 (see UMBEL - Annex K). By version 1.50, the complete system was based on these build routines and standard input files.

SuperType assignments and checks are an integral part of these build routines, which were not sufficiently developed until version 1.50. The key changes that were introduced in version 1.50 included the following:

  • Removal of all instance or individual listings from UMBEL. The Reference Concepts (RCs) that remain in UMBEL are now all classes (OpenCyc was used to help make these determinations). This change does NOT affect the punning used in UMBELS's design (see Metamodeling in Domain Ontologies)
  • Corrections and re-alignments of some prior SuperTypes. In version 1.50, these SuperTypes were eliminated:
    1. Earthscape -- which was re-assigned to Forms and LocationPlaces
    2. Extraterrestrial -- which was re-assigned to AreaRegion and LocationPlaces
    3. Notations and Numbers -- which were moved to a new category of shared Reference Concepts.
  • These corrections led to the introduction of a number of new STs:
    1. AreaRegion - this better generalized earlier problems with spatial relations
    2. AtomsElements - this better set aside concepts shared by other STs
    3. BiologicalProcesses - this better called out shared processes by living things
    4. Forms - this emerged as an important spatial construct
    5. LocationPlaces - this better generalized earlier problems with spatial relations
    6. OrganicChemistry - a split of the prior Chemistry ST, which better aligns with the split between living and inanimate matter
    7. Shapes - though largely shared (and non-disjoint), this new ST captures a very common characteristic of all physical objects
    8. Situations - an important ST overlooked in prior efforts that helps to better establish context for Activities and Events
  • A typology was created for each of the disjoint STs, which enabled missing concepts to be identified and added and to better organize the concepts within each given ST; this was a major focus of effort
    1. Some additional upper-level categories were introduced to better organize the largely disjoint STs.

Finally, because of these changes, earlier designs that had been moving toward multiple modules has been replaced. It is now possible to invoke or not individual STs as a substitute for the earlier module design (see Annex J and Annex L).


This report describes the rationale for the class of SuperTypes within UMBEL and how its 34 K reference concepts (RCs) are assigned to one of a few categories of SuperTypes. This report is an update of the SuperTypes design, first introduced in version 0.80. We discuss five categories of SuperTypes below, with one category, the main disjoint category, being the most important.

The first category of SuperTypes is for non-disjoint types, mostly of a shared or buiding block nature. By design, these SuperTypes participate in little or no reasoning. Most have shared aspects across all SuperTypes. SuperTypes in this category are designed to be fully non-disjoint, and do not participate in any disjoint assertions. There are seven (7) SuperTypes in this first category, specifically Abstractions, Concepts, Conventions, Primitives, Structures, Symbols and TopicsCategories. Little further is discussed about this category below.

A second category is for the Attributes SuperType. Attributes may be assigned to any of the reference concepts (RCs) associated with any of the other SuperTypes. Attributes are thus inherently non-disjoint. Little further is discussed about this category below.

A third category is for SuperTypes that are parental types for other SuperTypes. These are largely organizational in nature for helping to keep the upper portions of UMBEL manageable. Since their children are specific SuperTypes, this parental category may be used for some minor reasoning, but is not the central focus of the overall SuperTypes design. There are nineteen (19) SuperTypes in this category, and specifically include Agents, Artifacts, AVInfo, Constituents, Eukaryotes, Information, LivingThings, Manifestations, MentalProcesses, NaturalMatter, OrganicMatter, Places, Relations, SignElements, SocialProcesses, Space, Symbolic, Systems and Time. Though used for organizational purposes below, none of these are discussed further below individually.

A fourth, somewhat special SuperType is Shapes. About half of the RCs in UMBEL have a Shapes aspect; about half do not. Thus, Shapes can be used for some disjoint analysis, but is shared widely enough to not be that useful in most circumstances. Shapes is thus kept separate from the main SuperTypes category.

The fifth and last SuperTypes category is for those that are largely disjoint with one another. This main SuperTypes category contains 31 SuperTypes, specifically including:


In addition, all of these SuperTypes are clustered into 9 "dimensions" (drawn from the third category above), which are useful for aggregation and organizational purposes, but which have no direct bearing on logic assertions or disjoint testing.


The master file with all SuperType assigments by Reference Concept (RC) is provided by SuperTypes.csv.


The assignment of UMBEL reference concepts to SuperTypes was an outgrowth of the observation that many of the concepts within UMBEL may be clustered into disjoint groupings. Most things and concepts about them are based on real, observable, physical things in the real world. Because most of these things can not occupy both the same moment in time and the same location in physical space, a useful criterion for looking at these things and concepts is disjointedness.

In a broad sense, then, we can split our concepts of the world between those ideas that are disjoint because they pertain to separable objects or ideas and those that are cross-cutting or organizational or classificatory. Attributes, such as color (pink, for example), are often cross-cutting in that they can be used to describe quite disparate things. Inherent classification schemes such as academic fields of study or library catalog systems — while useful ways to organize the world — are not themselves in-and-of the world or discrete from other ideas. Thus, classificatory or organizational concepts are inherently not disjoint.

The potential advantage of clustering into logical, disjoint groups can include:

  • A better basis for organizing a large concept space
  • Possible amenability to the use of templates for displaying similar attributes and information for similar concepts
  • Possible computational efficiency due to being able to segregate concepts into logically coherent groupings
  • Improved disambiguation by assessing concept matches in addition to entity matches via triangulation between the two assessments
  • Structure and integrity testing.

Any classificatory scheme has a degree of arbitrariness. To be useful, it must be perceived as logical and coherent and it should achieve most if not all of the potential advantages above.

Both "bottom up" (coherent clustering of related concepts) and "top down" (selecting top-level concepts and evaluating and clustering all child concepts using union, intersection or complement operators) were used to create the assignments herein. Each approach was iterated multiple times, with logic and coherence testing after every run. For example, analysis of shared parent concepts in the lineage and other structure-wide tests were employed.

Classification schemes always are subject to the tension between "lumping" and "splitting": Are three groupings too few? A hundred groupings too many? This tension is also compounded by the possible sense of arbitrary boundaries, such as why "Drugs" gets its own category and not "Toys"?

Classical taxonomists and other classifiers have always attempted to achieve "natural" classification systems. Based on the best information available, is the assignment of one item to Group A more defensible than it is to Group B? New knowledge or perceptions, such as the immense impact of genetics on classical systematics, can thoroughly change perceptions of what is logical and natural.

In the case of these UMBEL reference concepts, the tests employed were to find the highest degree of disjointedness while also maintaining a sense of logical coherence with the observable world. And, where non-disjointness was found, could that degree of overlap be seen as both natural and limited? For example, the SuperType of Persons is non-disjoint with Animals because persons are humans; otherwise the groups are disjoint. Similarly, Persons are non-disjoint with Organizations because some types of agents, such as MusicPerformingAgent, may be either an individual or a group.

These overlaps can be understood and can also be sought to be as minimal as possible.


Here is a description of the SuperTypes, their clustering into "dimensions" and the intersections with other SuperTypes. Note that SuperType intersections with strong overlap (more than 100 assigned reference concepts involved) are noted in Bold:

Dimension SuperType Description SuperType Intersections
Constituents Natural Phenomena This SuperType includes natural phenomena and natural processes such as weather, weathering, erosion, fires, lightning, earthquakes, tectonics, etc. Clouds and weather processes are specifically included. Also includes climate cycles, general natural events (such as hurricanes) that are not specifically named, and biochemical processes and pathways. Activities
Area or Region The AreaRegion SuperType includes all nameable or definable areas or regions that may be found within "space". Though the distinction is not sharp, this SuperType is meant to be distinct from specific points of interest (POIs) that may be mapped (often displayed as a thumbtack). Areas or regions are best displayed on a map as a polygon (area) or path (polyline). Facilities, FinanceEconomy, Forms, Geopolitical, LocationPlace, NaturalSubstances, Organizations, Products
Location or Place The LocationPlace SuperType is for bounded and defined points in "space", which can be positiioned via some form of coordinate system and can often be shown as points of interest (POIs) on a map. This SuperType is distinguished by areas or locations, which are often best displayed as polygons or polylines on a map. AreaRegion, Facilities, Products, Situations
Shapes The Shapes SuperType captures all 1D, 2D and 3D shapes, regular or irregular. Most shapes are geometrically describable things.

Shapes has only a minor disjointedness role, with more than half of UMBEL reference concepts having some aspect of a Shapes specification.
Not cross-referenced; see text.
Forms This SuperType category includes all aspects of the shapes that objects take in space; Forms is thus closely related to Shapes. The Forms SuperType is also the collection of natural cartographic features that occur on the surface of the Earth or other planetary bodies, as well as the form shapes that naturally occurring matter may assume. Positive examples include Mountain, Ocean, and Mesa. Artificial features such as canals are excluded. Most instances of these natural features have a fixed location in space. Animals, AreaRegion, Chemistry, Facilities
Time-related Activities These are ongoing activities that result (mostly) from human effort, often conducted by organizations to assist other organizations or individuals (in which case they are known as services, such as medicine, law, printing, consulting or teaching) or individual or group efforts for leisure, fun, sports, games or personal interests (activities).

Generic, broad grouping of actions that apply to generic objects are also included in this SuperType.
AtomsElements, AudioInfo, BiologicalProcesses, Chemistry, Diseases, Events, Products, StructuredInfo
Events These are nameable occasions, games, sports events, conferences, natural phenomena, natural disasters, wars, incidents, anniversaries, holidays, or notable moments or periods in time Events have a finite duration, with a beginning and end. Individual events (such as wars, disasters, newsworthy occasions) may also have their own names. Activities, Diseases, Situations, StructuredInfo, Times
Times This SuperType is for specific time or date or period (such as eras, or days, weeks, months type intervals) references in various formats. Activities, Events
Natural Matter Atoms and Elements The Atoms and Elements SuperType contains all known chemical elements and the constituents of atoms. Activities, Chemistry, NaturalSubstances, Products
Natural Substances The Natural Substances SuperType are minerals, compounds, chemicals, or physical objects that are not the outcome of purposeful human effort, but are found naturally occurring. Other natural objects (such as rock, fossil, etc.) are also found under this SuperType. Chemicals can be Natural Substances, but only if they are naturally occurring, such as limestone or salt. AreaRegion, AtomsElements, Chemistry, Facilities, FoodDrink, Products
Chemistry This SuperType is a residual category for chemical bonds, chemical composition groupings, and the like. It is formed by what is not a natural substance or living thing (organic) substance. Organic Chemistry and Biological Processes are, by definition, separate SuperTypes. This Chemistry SuperType thus includes inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, materials chemistry, nuclear chemistry, and theoretical chemistry. Activities, Animals, AtomsElements, Drugs, FinanceEconomy, FoodDrink, Forms, NaturalSubstances, OrganicChemistry, Products
Organic Matter Organic Chemistry The Organic Chemistry SuperType is for all chemistry involving carbon, including the biochemistry of living organisms and the materials chemistry (including polymers) of organic compounds such as fossil fuels. Activities, Chemistry, Drugs, FoodDrink, Products, Prokaryotes
Biochemical Processes The Biochemical Processes SuperType is for all sequences of reactions and chemical pathways associated with living things. Activities
Living Things Prokaryotes The Prokaryotes include all prokaryotic organisms, including the Monera, Archaebacteria, Bacteria, and Blue-green algas. Also included in this SuperType are viruses and prions. OrganicChemistry
Protists & Fungus This is the remaining cluster of eukaryotic organisms, specifically including the fungus and the protista (protozoans and slime molds). Drugs, FoodDrink, Plants
Plants This SuperType includes all plant types and flora, including flowering plants, algae, non-flowering plants, gymnosperms, cycads, and plant parts and body types. Note that all Plant Parts are also included. Chemistry, Drugs, FoodDrink, Products, ProtistsFungus
Animals This large SuperType includes all animal types, including specific animal types and vertebrates, invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, fish, reptiles, amphibia, birds, mammals, and animal body parts. Animal parts are specifically included. Also, groupings of such animals are included. Humans, as an animal, are included (versus as an individual Person). Diseases are specifically excluded. Animals have many of the similar overlaps to Plants. However, in addition, there are more terms for animal groups, animal parts, animal secretions, etc. Also Animals can include some human traits (posture, dead animal, etc) Chemistry, Diseases, FoodDrink, Forms, Persons, Products
Diseases Diseases are atypical or unusual or unhealthy conditions for (mostly human) living things, generally known as conditions, disorders, infections, diseases or syndromes. Diseases only affect living things and sometimes are caused by living things. This SuperType also includes impairments, disease vectors, wounds and injuries, and poisoning Activities, Animals, Events
Agents Persons The appropriate SuperType for all named, individual human beings. This SuperType also includes the assignment of formal, honorific or cultural titles given to specific human individuals. It further includes names given to humans who conduct specific jobs or activities (the latter case is known as an avocation). Examples include steelworker, waitress, lawyer, plumber, artisan. Ethnic groups are specifically included.

Persons as living animals are included under the Animals SuperType.
Organizations Organization is a broad SuperType and includes formal collections of humans, sometimes by legal means, charter, agreement or some mode of formal understanding. Examples include geopolitical entities such as nations, municipalities or countries; or companies, institutes, governments, universities, militaries, political parties, game groups, international organizations, trade associations, etc. All institutions, for example, are organizations.

Also included are informal collections of humans. Informal or less defined groupings of humans may result from ethnicity or tribes or nationality or from shared interests (such as social networks or mailing lists) or expertise ("communities of practice"). This dimension also includes the notion of identifiable human groups with set members at any given point in time. Examples include music groups, cast members of a play, directors on a corporate Board, TV show members, gangs, mobs, juries, generations, minorities, etc.

Finally, Organizations contain the concepts of Industries and Programs and Communities.
AreaRegion, FinanceEconomy, Situations, Society
Geopolitical Named places that have some informal or formal political (authorized) component. Important subcollections include Country, IndependentCountry, State_Geopolitical, City, and Province. AreaRegion
Artifacts Products This is SuperType includes any instance offered for sale or performed as a commercial service. A Product is often a physical object made by humans that is not a conceptual work or a facility, such as vehicles, cars, trains, aircraft, spaceships, ships, foods, beverages, clothes, drugs, weapons. Activities, Animals, AreaRegion, AtomsElements, AudioInfo, Chemistry, Drugs, Facilities, FinanceEconomy, FoodDrink, LocationPlace, NaturalSubstances, OrganicChemistry, Plants, StructuredInfo, VisualInfo, WrittenInfo
Food or Drink This SuperType is any edible substance grown, made or harvested by humans. The category also specifically includes the concept of cuisines. Activities, Animals, Chemistry, Drugs, NaturalSubstances, OrganicChemistry, Plants, Products, ProtistsFungus
Drugs This SuperType is a drug, medication or addictive substance, or a toxin or a poison. Chemistry, FoodDrink, OrganicChemistry, Plants, Products
Facilities Facilities are physical places or buildings constructed by humans, such as schools, public institutions, markets, museums, amusement parks, worship places, stations, airports, ports, carstops, lines, railroads, roads, waterways, tunnels, bridges, parks, sport facilities, monuments. All can be geospatially located.

Facilities also include animal pens and enclosures and general human "activity" areas (golf course, archeology sites, etc.). Importantly Facilities include infrastructure systems such as roadways and physical networks.

Facilities also include the component parts that go into making them (such as foundations, doors, windows, roofs, etc.).

Facilities can also include natural structures that have been converted or used for human activities, such as occupied caves or agricultural facilities.

Finally, facilities also include workplaces. Workplaces are areas of human activities, ranging from single person workstations to large aggregations of people (but which are not formal political entities).

AreaRegion, FinanceEconomy, Forms, LocationPlace, NaturalSubstances, Organizations, Products, VisualInfo
Information Audio Info This SuperType is for any audio-only human work. Examples include live music performances, record albums, or radio shows or individual radio broadcasts Activities, Products
Visual Info The Visual Info SuperType is for any still image or picture or streaming video human work, with or without audio. Examples include graphics, pictures, movies, TV shows, individual shows from a TV show, etc. Activities, AudioInfo, Facilities, FinanceEconomy, Products, StructuredInfo, WrittenInfo
Written Info This SuperType includes any general material written by humans including books, blogs, articles, manuscripts, but any written information conveyed via text. Activities, AudioInfo, FinanceEconomy, Products, StructuredInfo, VisualInfo
Structured Info This information SuperType is for all kinds of structured information and datasets, including computer programs, databases, files, Web pages and structured data that can be presented in tabular form. Activities, Events, FinanceEconomy, Products, VisualInfo, WrittenInfo
Social Finance & Economy This SuperType pertains to all things financial and with respect to the economy, including chartable company performance, stock index entities, money, local currencies, taxes, incomes, accounts and accounting, mortgages and property. Activities, AreaRegion, Chemistry, Facilities, Organizations, Products, StructuredInfo, VisualInfo, WrittenInfo
Society This category includes concepts related to political systems, laws, rules or cultural mores governing societal or community behavior, or doctrinal, faith or religious bases or entities (such as gods, angels, totems) governing spiritual human matters. Culture, Issues, beliefs and various activisms (most -isms) are included. Activities, Organizations, Situations


This section provides an analysis of the reference concept assignments and their possible disjointedness or overlap with other SuperTypes.

First, the 31 SuperTypes in our mostly disjoint categories contain 87% of the UMBEL reference concepts. The remaining 13%, which by definition are classificatory or attributes, are non-disjoint (overlapping).

Here is the breakdown for the non-disjoint (overlapping) categories:

Category Count
Reference Concepts 33,565
Abstractions 2,794
Concepts 3,058
TopicsCategories 256
Shared 3,793
Upper Level 4,328
Attributes 2,794
Total Unique Non-disjoint 4,398
Table 2. Distribution of Non-disjoint SuperTypes

The actual statistics by SuperType are shown in the table below.

Within the 90% of reference concepts that are putatively disjoint, about 65% are fully disjoint.

But, as this table indicates, there is a wide diversity of overlap or not between SuperTypes:

SuperTypes Count % of Total % of Unique Single ST % of Single ST
Activities 3,825 9.6% 12.9% 18 0.5%
Animals 8,704 21.9% 29.3% 8,206 94.3%
AreaRegion 1,090 2.7% 3.7% 398 36.5%
AtomsElements 190 0.5% 0.6% 35 18.4%
AudioInfo 196 0.5% 0.7% 107 54.6%
BiologicalProcesses 223 0.6% 0.8% 0 0.0%
Chemistry 1,128 2.8% 3.8% 554 49.1%
Diseases 583 1.5% 2.0% 5 0.9%
Drugs 779 2.0% 2.6% 418 53.7%
Events 4,404 11.1% 14.8% 87 2.0%
Facilities 1,254 3.2% 4.2% 472 37.6%
FinanceEconomy 603 1.5% 2.0% 104 17.2%
FoodDrink 1,177 3.0% 4.0% 525 44.6%
Forms 38 0.1% 0.1% 13 34.2%
Geopolitical 203 0.5% 0.7% 0 0.0%
LocationPlace 214 0.5% 0.7% 41 19.2%
NaturalPhenomena 85 0.2% 0.3% 32 37.6%
NaturalSubstances 725 1.8% 2.4% 459 63.3%
OrganicChemistry 668 1.7% 2.2% 123 18.4%
Organizations 1,390 3.5% 4.7% 1,127 81.1%
Persons 296 0.7% 1.0% 30 10.1%
Plants 2,579 6.5% 8.7% 2,477 96.0%
Products 5,531 13.9% 18.6% 4,304 77.8%
Prokaryotes 447 1.1% 1.5% 446 99.8%
ProtistsFungus 158 0.4% 0.5% 110 69.6%
Situations 697 1.8% 2.3% 24 3.4%
Society 133 0.3% 0.4% 70 52.6%
StructuredInfo 905 2.3% 3.0% 675 74.6%
Times 178 0.4% 0.6% 112 62.9%
VisualInfo 536 1.3% 1.8% 128 23.9%
WrittenInfo 869 2.2% 2.9% 187 21.5%
Total 39,808 21,287
Unique 29,718 21,287

Table 3. Quantification of Reference Concepts by SuperType

Also telling is that nearly half of the overlaps (42%) between SuperTypes occur in only three areas: PersonTypes v. Animals (for humans), PersonTypes v. Organizations (for certain agents) and Events v. Activities (for genuine ambiguities between the categories). The remaining 75 interactions account for the remaining half of the observed overlaps.

Even Where Overlaps Occur, They are Minor

Of the 29 mostly disjoint SuperTypes, only a relatively few show potential interactions, and then mostly in minor ways (excepting the three interactions noted earlier). We can illustrate this (drawn to scale) for the interaction between the Product, Food & Drink and Drug (Pharmaceuticals) SuperTypes, with the fully disjoint Organization SuperType thrown in for comparison:

Example SuperTypes Overlap

Figure 3. Sample Venn Diagram of Minor SuperTypes Overlap

Across all 28,000 concepts, then, about 60% are disjoint from one another. These reference concepts can gain the advantages noted at the beginning of this report.


The next steps with the SuperTypes will be to refine the interaction matrix such that only true overlaps are excluded from disjoint assertions, as opposed to all of the RefConcepts in the participating SuperTypes.

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