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TEI-L  March 2007

TEI-L March 2007

Subject:

Re: Uniform guidelines for applying semantics to highlighted text?

From:

Julia Flanders <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Julia Flanders <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 6 Mar 2007 11:20:40 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (143 lines)

I think the short answer to your question is that
you're not alone in finding this difficult, and
that the TEI does not seek to provide a full
classification of this kind of textual phenomenon
that would satisfactorily encode the semantic
nuances of the features you're describing here.

This is a particularly tricky area, I think,
because the semantics of these features is both
harder to characterize (since it's often subtle
and hard to pin down) and more subject to
contextual factors arising from other encoding
decisions you might have made.

For instance, I could imagine encoding your first
example (the letters carved in skin) as:

<mentioned> since the string is being referred to
for its stringness rather than for its meaning
<quote> since it is in effect a text from another
source (albeit not a typically bibliographic one
:-)
<seg> (perhaps with a type= attribute) if this
were a common phenomenon in your text or part of
some larger textual signifying pattern in which
you had a particular interest

Your second example is even harder. If the phrase
denotes something akin to an official title (like
"Homecoming Queen"), then one might imagine
making a case for <roleName>, but that element
isn't allowed except within <persName>, which is
harder to justify here. If the phrase is taken as
representing a commonly circulating term (i.e.
quoting the current gossip) then one could
imagine making a case for <quote>. If it's just
taken as a phrase referring to the person in
question, <rs> would be justifiable though it
wouldn't say much, it seems to me. <term> is
another option in this general domain but carries
the implication of specialized/technical
terminology. If <socalled> didn't carry an
implication of ironic usage, it might be the
closest of all, and this may reveal a gap in the
TEI's coverage of semantic markup of highlighted
text--perhaps there needs to be an element that
means, in effect, "this is a phrase used to
describe something else".

I think what this reveals is that the TEI suite
of semantically specific elements for highlighted
text focuses on areas where one feels a strong
external motive to encode: in other words, areas
such as naming or terminological definition where
the benefits of marking the semantics are clear
and generalizable. The encoding activity you're
describing has a different kind of intention (and
one I find both interesting and sympathetic): the
goal of accounting for the nuances that the text
foregrounds. Encoding of this sort is harder
because the question it asks isn't "which box
does this go in?" but "what boxes does the text
ask me to build?" and also partly "what boxes am
I interested in by being interested in this
text?" As a result, it's difficult to arrive at a
classification that will generalize well.

So I think there are two strategies to consider,
depending on what you're trying to accomplish:

1. Fit the text into the elements the TEI provides
--either by choosing the element that is closest
to the meaning you intuit (so in the first
example, perhaps <mentioned>, and in the second
example, perhaps <rs>?)
--or by choosing an element that does minimal
misrepresentation by being as semantically null
as possible: this is the argument for <hi>, or
for <seg> if you want to reserve <hi> for
elements whose highlighting specifically carries
*no* semantics (such as decorative highlighting
of the first word in a chapter)
As an aside, the Women Writers Project created an
element for just this latter purpose, called
<mcr> (meaningful change in rendition), which we
use to encode highlighted words/phrases whose
highlighting is semantically mysterious to us but
clearly isn't simply decorative.

2. Create elements that represent the semantic
distinctions you detect in the text, if these are
not already represented in TEI. You could do this
comparatively painlessly by using <seg> with a
type= attribute whose values you determine, or
you could create new named elements that might be
syntactic sugar for <rs> or <seg> or <hi> but
would represent your own sense of what's going on
in the text. I'm tempted to suggest possibilities
but my imagination isn't quite fertile enough
today.

Best wishes, Julia

Julia Flanders
Women Writers Project
Brown University

At 8:14 AM -0700 3/6/07, Jon Noring wrote:
>Everyone,
>
>I've been studying the TEI elements for marking up the semantics of
>highlighted text (avoid using <hi>). Chapter 6 of the TEI P4X spec
>provides the "core" overview.
>
>Yet, I am finding it difficult to come up with a "standardized"
>uniform approach that will work on most if not all highlighted inline
>text I run across in contemporary books. As I go through a catalog of
>recently published books, I'm always finding a few oddities that are
>somewhat difficult to semantically categorize, either because they
>occupy some "gray" area, or are simply difficult to semantically
>characterize to standard TEI elements.
>
>So, has anyone here come up with a workable set of standardized
>guidelines for this purpose? I would think that some projects to
>markup a lot of books in TEI would try to standardize their approach
>to semantically markup highlighted text.
>
>Or is this an exercise in futility? <laugh/>
>
>As an example, here's just a couple snippets where I'd like to
>properly assign TEI semantics to the italicized text:
>
> It took a few minutes and a couple of us to figure it out, but we
> determined there are three letters carved in her skin: <i>CXJ</i>.
>
> It was almost certain she would be voted <i>best-looking senior</i>
> in the class of 02 at her Cocoa Beach high school next year.
>
>
>Thanks for your insights!
>
>Jon Noring

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