Tree structure

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A tree structure showing the possible hierarchical organization of an encyclopedia.
The original Encyclopédie used a tree diagram to show the way in which its subjects were ordered.

Terminology and properties[edit]

The tree elements are called "nodes". The lines connecting elements are called "branches". Nodes without children are called leaf nodes, "end-nodes", or "leaves".

Every finite tree structure has a member that has no superior. This member is called the "root" or root node. The root is the starting node. But the converse is not true: infinite tree structures may or may not have a root node.

The names of relationships between nodes are modeled after family relations. The gender-neutral names "parent" and "child" have largely displaced the older "father" and "son" terminology, although the term "uncle" is still used for other nodes at the same level as the parent.

  • A node's "parent" is a node one step higher in the hierarchy (i.e. closer to the root node) and lying on the same branch.
  • "Sibling" ("brother" or "sister") nodes share the same parent node.
  • A node's "uncles" are siblings of that node's parent.
  • A node that is connected to all lower-level nodes is called an "ancestor". The connected lower-level nodes are "descendants" of the ancestor node.

In the example, "encyclopedia" is the parent of "science" and "culture", its children. "Art" and "craft" are siblings, and children of "culture", which is their parent and thus one of their ancestors. Also, "encyclopedia", being the root of the tree, is the ancestor of "science", "culture", "art" and "craft". Finally, "science", "art" and "craft", being leaves, are ancestors of no other node.

Tree structures are used to depict all kinds of taxonomic knowledge, such as family trees, the biological evolutionary tree, the evolutionary tree of a language family, the grammatical structure of a language (a key example being S → NP VP, meaning a sentence is a noun phrase and a verb phrase, with each in turn having other components which have other components), the way web pages are logically ordered in a web site, mathematical trees of integer sets, et cetera.

In a tree structure there is one and only one path from any point to any other point.

Tree structures are used extensively in computer science (see Tree (data structure) and telecommunications.)

For a formal definition see set theory, and for a generalization in which children are not necessarily successors, see prefix order.

Examples of tree structures[edit]

A tree map used to represent a directory structure as a nested set.

Representing trees[edit]

There are many ways of visually representing tree structures. Almost always, these boil down to variations, or combinations, of a few basic styles:

Classical node-link diagrams[edit]

encyclopedia
/
culture
\
science
/
art
\
craft

Classical node-link diagrams, that connect nodes together with line segments.

Nested sets[edit]

Blank.png encyclopedia
Blank.png Blank.png
Blank.png culture
Blank.png Blank.png
art   craft
science 

Nested sets that use enclosure/containment to show parenthood, examples include TreeMaps and fractal maps.

Layered "icicle" diagrams[edit]

encyclopedia
culture science
art craft

Layered "icicle" diagrams that use alignment/adjacency.

Outlines and tree views[edit]

encyclopedia
culture
art
craft
science
  • encyclopedia
    • culture
      • art
      • craft
    • science

Lists or diagrams that use indentation, sometimes called "outlines" or "tree views".

Nested parentheses[edit]

((art,craft)culture,science)encyclopedia
or
encyclopedia(culture(art,craft),science)

A correspondence to nested parentheses was first noticed by Sir Arthur Cayley.

Radial trees[edit]

art
      \
craft
/    
culture
|
encyclopedia
|
science
See also: Radial tree

Trees can also be represented radially.

See also[edit]

Kinds of trees
Related articles

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What is the Document Object Model?". W3C Architecture domain. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 

Further reading[edit]

Identification of some of the basic styles of tree structures can be found in:

  • Jacques Bertin, Sémiologie graphique, 1967, Éditions Gauthier-Villars, Paris (2nd edition 1973, English translation 1983);
  • Donald E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, Volume I: Fundamental Algorithms, 1968, Addison-Wesley, pp. 309–310;
  • Brian Johnson and Ben Shneiderman, Tree-maps: A space-filling approach to the visualization of hierarchical information structures, in Proceedings of IEEE Visualization (VIS), 1991, pp. 284–291;
  • Peter Eades, Tao Lin, and Xuemin Lin, Two Tree Drawing Conventions, International Journal of Computational Geometry and Applications, 1993, volume 3, number 2, pp. 133–153.

External links[edit]