SuMoTED: An intuitive edit distance between rooted unordered uniquely-labelled trees

Matt McVicar*, Benjamin Sach, Cédric Mesnage, Jefrey Lijffijt, Eirini Spyropoulou, Tijl De Bie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
297 Downloads (Pure)


Defining and computing distances between tree structures is a classical area of study in theoretical computer science, with practical applications in the areas of computational biology, information retrieval, text analysis, and many others. In this paper, we focus on rooted, unordered, uniquely-labelled trees such as taxonomies and other hierarchies. For trees as these, we introduce the intuitive concept of a 'local move' operation as an atomic edit of a tree. We then introduce SuMoTED, a new edit distance measure between such trees, defined as the minimal number of local moves required to convert one tree into another. We show how SuMoTED can be computed using a scalable algorithm with quadratic time complexity. Finally, we demonstrate its use on a collection of music genre taxonomies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-59
Number of pages8
JournalPattern Recognition Letters
Early online date4 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Taxonomies
  • Tree edit distance


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