Affiliations: [a] Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa. E-mail: [email protected] | [b] Linguistics Program, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. E-mail: [email protected]
Note:  Accepted by: Stefano Borgo, Cogan Matthew Shimizu and Pascal Hitzler
Abstract: Part–whole relations are pervasive throughout domain ontologies and enjoy interest also in, inter alia, NLP and manufacturing, and by philosophers in the scope of mereology. There exist a stable list of part–whole relations that are assumed to be common, yet for isiZulu, among other languages, there were at least linguistic differences. This raises the question whether there are ontological differences, which would imply that the ‘common’ list is not universal across languages and cultures. We investigated this for 18 part–whole terms in the Zulu language that we selected from an initial list of 81 terms collected. They were formalised and aligned to the well-known part–whole relations, and checked against a corpus. While there is a term for general parthood in Zulu, the main difference observed concerns relation proliferation due to very specific relata that are entities typically represented only in domain ontologies. This poses new questions for ontology engineering on how to manage the plurality of relations and for philosophy to possibly extend mereology.