Enumerative systems

An enumerative classification system is a system that lists all the specific subject classes, as opposed to, for example, faceted systems, in which the specific classes is made by the indexer or searcher by combination of non-compound classes. The DDC, the UDC and the LCC are examples of enumerative systems (although the DDC and especially the UDC have some elements of faceted classifications).


This meaning corresponds to the first of the two senses of the verb "enumerate" in WordNet:

  1. enumerate, recite, itemize, itemise -- (specify individually; "She enumerated the many obstacles she had encountered"; "The doctor recited the list of possible side effects of the drug").

  2. count, number, enumerate, numerate -- (determine the number or amount of; "Can you count the books on your shelf?"; "Count your change").

S. R. Ranganathan wrote in his ‘Philosophy of Library Classification’ (1951):


“An enumerative scheme with a superficial foundation can be suitable and even economical for a closed system of knowledge…………What distinguishes the universe of current knowledge is that it is a dynamical continuum. It is ever growing; new branches may stem from any of its infinity of points at any time; they are unknowable at present. They can not therefore be enumerated here and now; nor can they be anticipated, their filiations can be determined only after they appear.” (Ranganathan, 1951).


Ranganathan thus expresses the views:

  1. That enumerative systems have a superficial foundation

  2. That the discovery of new knowledge cannot be anticipated in an enumerative system

  3. That the discovery of new knowledge can be anticipated in a faceted system (based on the view that new knowledge is formed by combination of a priory existing categories)






Ranganathan, S. R. (1951). Philosophy of Library Classification. Copenhagen: E. Munksgaard.


Singh, P. (2004). Faceted Classification: The right choice in electronic environment. http://drtc.isibang.ac.in/~prachi/collo4.html


WordNet: http://wordnet.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn




See also: Traditional approaches to KO



Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 22-02-2007