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Relations in GermaNet



Concepts are the basic unit to enter lexicographic data for GermaNet. Concepts are described as synsets. Each synset consist of a list of lemmas or lexical units denoting the lexical realizations of the concept described. Note, that a list of synonyms can consist of only one element.

There are two types of relations, conceptual relations denote relations that hold for the full concept, not only for one of its synonyms. Lexical relations hold between lexical realizations (synonyms, lemmas), one frequent lexical relation is for example the antonymy.

GermaNet covers all relations which are defined for WordNet®, except for the 'similar to' relation for adjectives, which is replaced by the hyperonymy/hyponymy relation in GermanNet (see description of adjectives for details).

Some of them (like 'entails') are used less often in GermaNet, others (like 'cause to') will be used more frequently (see description of verbs for details).

One major difference to WordNet® is that cross-classification (multiple inheritence) is explicitly allowed in GermaNet and lexicographers are encouraged to make ample use of it whenever appropriate.

This section is intended to list all the relations together with their definition, restrictions in use, and notes on the current status of their implementation.

Relation Name
Valid Class Name of Reverse
Synonymy y y y Synonymy lexical
Antonymy y y y Antonymy lexical
Hyperonymy y y y Hyponymy conceptual
Hyponymy y y y Hyperonymy conceptual
Meronymy y n n Holonymy conceptual
Holonymy y n n Meronymy conceptual
Causation n n y   conceptual
Association y y y   conceptual
Pertonymy y y y   lexical
Participle n y n   lexical



  • Valid Class N: is the relation valid for nouns?
  • Valid Class A: is the relation valid for adjectives?
  • Valid Class V: is the relation valid for verbs?

Lexical Relations


The following text passages are taken from the EuroWordNet General Document (edited by Piek Vossen, University of Amsterdam, and published in July 2002; it is online available):

Synonymy is the basis for the organization of the database in synsets. Miller and Fellbaum (1990) suggested a notion of synonymy, namely 'semantic similarity', which is defined as: “two expressions are synonymous in a linguistic context C if the substitution of one for the other in C does not alter the truth value” (Miller et al., 1990).

From this we can derive the following tests for synonymy between nouns and verbs respectively:

Test 1: Synonymy between nouns

if it is (a/an) X then it is also (a/an) Y

if it is (a/an) Y then it is also (a/an) X


if it is a fiddle then it is a violin

if it is a violin then it is a fiddle

synset variants {fiddle, violin}

Test 2: Synonymy between verbs

If something/someone/it Xs then something/someone/it Ys

If something/someone/it Ys then something/someone/it Xs

If something/someone/it begins then something/someone/it starts

If something/someone/it starts then something/someone/it begins

synset variants: {begin, start}


Test (EuroWordNet) for Verbs:

In EuroWordNet antonymy is a relation between variants, i.e. between elements of the same synset: Synset variant X is an antonym of synset variant Y if X is the opposite of Y.

Test sentences:

If sth./sb. X-s, he/she/it does not Y.

(If she borrows sth., she does not lend it.)

If sth./sb. Y-s, he/she/it does not X.

(If she lends sth., she does not borrow it.)


The following conditions have to apply for this relation:

  1. X and Y share the same hyperonym, thus they are elements of a co-hyponym synset (this prevents, e. g., that verbs like eat and sleep are designated as antonyms).

  2. There is a hyperonym of X, which is the opposite of a hyperonym of Y.

  3. Both verbs involve the same participants, which play, however, different roles in the situations (i.e. states, events or processes) that are described by these verbs (example: give and receive are antonyms because the indirect object of give , i.e. the addressee, who is involved in the event, is subject of receive ).

EuroWordNet further assumes a relation called near_antonymy which applies to entire synsets, i.e. the antonymy relation holds between all members of the synset. Besides this, the test is the same as for antonymy (including the three conditions).

Test (EuroWordNet) for Nouns

Antonymy and near_antonymy are also distinguished for nouns. The test is simpler than for verbs however:

X is an antonym of Y and Y is an antonym of X if the following test sentences apply:

X and Y are both a kind of Z, but X is the opposite of Y.

(i.e. Z is a hyperonym of X and Y.)

(Love and hate are both a kind of emotion, but love is the opposite of hate.)

Inversion of the above sentence

(Hate and love are both a kind of emotion, but hate is the opposite of love.)


As for verbs, the condition that Z is a hyperonym of both X and Y is necessary in order to guarantee that the antonymy relation is stated in a reasonable, competitive denotational range.


The lexical relation pertonymy combines adjectives derived from a noun with their nominal base. The noun forms the basis of the adjective and determines its meaning (e.g. the adjective finanziell (financial) is derived from the noun Finanzen (finance)).


Similar to the pertonym pointer, the participle pointer connects a derived form with its base. But in contrast to the above one it is restricted to adjectives with participle form, which are derived from verbs.

Conceptual Relations


According to EuroWordNet, the "denotation of a hyponym is never equal to the denotation of a hyperonym, i.e. it must be a proper subset. There must be multiple co-hyponyms to result in a genuine hyponomy relation." It is assumed that the hyperonym (more general) may substitute the hyponym (less general) in a given context, but not the other way round.

Test (EuroWordNet) for verbs:

Verb synset X is hyponym of verb synset Y and verb synset Y is a hyperonym of verb synset X if the following test sentences can be answered accordingly:

X is Y + AdvP/AdjP/NP/PP.

('To run' is 'to go' fast.)

Y is X + AdvP/AdjP/NP/PP.

('To go' is 'to run' fast.)


Test (EuroWordNet) for nouns:

Attention has to be payed, since this test can also be used for synonymy. Therefore a second test for species, kinds, races, and brands has been developed.

Test 1 (also for synonymy):

X is a hyponym/synonym of Y and Y is a hyperonym/synonym of X if the following test sentences apply:

An X is a Y with specific characteristics.

(A car is a vehicle with specific characteristics.)

It is an X and thus also a Y.

(It is a car and thus also a vehicle.)

If it is an X, it has to be also a Y.

(If it is a car...)

Inversion of the above sentences

(A vehicle is a car with specific characteristics.)

(It is a vehicle and thus also a car.)

(If it is a vehicle ...)


Test 2 (for species, kinds, races, and brands):

Note that this test cannot be used for synonymy.

X is a kind/a type/a race/a species/a brand of Y.

(A car is a kind of vehicle.)

Inversion of the above sentence

(A vehicle is a kind of car.)



This relation in general only applies to concrete nouns which are interpreted generically (EuroWordNet 1996). According to EuroWordNet, part-whole relations come in inverse pairs, i.e. as holonymy and meronymy.

Test (EuroWordNet) :

X has a holonym Y and Y has a meronym X if

(an) X constitutes a part of (a) Y

(a) Y has (an) X.

Inversion of the above sentences no


This pointer indicates the causation relation especially between verbs and adjectives. See also Semantic Relations between Verbs


This is a dummy pointer without a clear definition that is best characterized as "is related to". See also Semantic Relations between Verbs