AbstractWe address hypernymy detection, i.e., whether an is-a relationship exists between words (x ,y), with the help of large textual corpora. Most conventional approaches to this task have been categorized to be either pattern-based or distributional. Recent studies suggest that pattern-based ones are superior, if large-scale Hearst pairs are extracted and fed, with the sparsity of unseen (x ,y) pairs relieved. However, they become invalid in some specific sparsity cases, where x or y is not involved in any pattern. For the first time, this paper quantifies the non-negligible existence of those specific cases. We also demonstrate that distributional methods are ideal to make up for pattern-based ones in such cases. We devise a complementary framework, under which a pattern-based and a distributional model collaborate seamlessly in cases which they each prefer. On several benchmark datasets, our framework demonstrates improvements that are both competitive and explainable.