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Geographical information systems (GIS) typically contain many gigabytes of quantitative spatial data; a major problem is how to best query and abstract this data for presentation to the human user. One possibility is through the use of maps and other graphical interfaces. The other, explored here, is through sets of qualitative spatial relations, such as the topological ones that have found their way into the ISO 19107 Spatial Schema standard. Such relations may be used to specify a wide variety of spatial information, including topological relationships, orientation, size, distance, location, and certain aspects of shape.

Representing space has a rich history in the physical sciences and serves to locate objects in a quantitative framework. At the other extreme, spatial expressions in natural languages tend to operate ...

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