What's in an Attribute? Consequences for the Least Common Subsumer
Ralf Kuesters and Alex Borgida
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Functional relationships between objects, called "attributes", are of considerable importance in knowledge representation languages, including Description Logics (DLs). A study of the literature indicates that papers have made, often implicitly, different assumptions about the nature of attributes: whether they are always required to have a value, or whether they can be partial functions. The work presented here is the first explicit study of this difference for subclasses of the CLASSIC DL, involving the same-as concept constructor. It is shown that although determining subsumption between concept descriptions has the same complexity (though requiring different algorithms), the story is different in the case of determining the least common subsumer (lcs). For attributes interpreted as partial functions, the lcs exists and can be computed relatively easily; even in this case our results correct and extend three previous papers about the lcs of DLs. In the case where attributes must have a value, the lcs may not exist, and even if it exists it may be of exponential size. Interestingly, it is possible to decide in polynomial time if the lcs exists.