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TEI-L  April 2011

TEI-L April 2011

Subject:

Re: Clarification about xml:lang (was Re: how to encode the language of a bibliographic reference)

From:

Piotr Bański <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Piotr Bański <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 6 Apr 2011 20:00:57 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (131 lines)

Hi Syd,

Let's be cautious about what we argue for/against here, so let me try to
put some order into this (with apologies for my quick messages earlier).

a. xml:lang is used for language identification of element content;

b. it can be (mis?)placed on e.g. <ptr> elements and empty elements in
general when they perform a stand-off function;

c. it is (mis)used for element identification.

My original statement of natural (metonymic) ambiguity concerned the
derivation of (c) from (a).

Lou likes neither (b) nor (c).

Syd argues against (b) below, I think misinterpreting my statement of
ambiguity-by-metonymic-extension as pertaining to this case.

I think (b) is a different case and until today I thought it fairly
obvious, until Lou and Syd made me think it through. I still consider it
OK, though possibly not so obvious. So let me comment on (b) alone in
this message.

Syd adduces the XML Spec [1]:

"A special attribute named xml:lang may be inserted in documents to
specify the language used in the contents and attribute values of any
element in an XML document. (...)

The language specified by xml:lang applies to the element where it is
specified (including the values of its attributes), and to all elements
in its content unless overridden with another instance of xml:lang. (...)"

Note that the second fragment is a statement on inheritance, much like
in the case of xml:base. I wanted to quote the XML Infoset doc at this
point, but, sadly, it managed to overlook xml:lang. So let me quote the
relevant fragment of the Inclusions doc [2]:

"While the xml:lang attribute is described as inherited by XML, the XML
Information Set makes no provision for preserving the inheritance of
this property through document composition such as XInclude provides.
This section introduces a /language/ property which records the scope of
xml:lang information in order to preserve it during inclusion.

An XInclude processor should augment the source infoset and the acquired
infoset by adding the /language/ property to each /element information
item/. The value of this property is the /normalized/ value of the
xml:lang attribute appearing on that element if one exists, with
xml:lang="" resulting in no value, otherwise it is the value of the
/language/ property of the element's parent element if one exists,
otherwise the property has no value."

Obviously, TEI XML assumes the XML Spec as augmented by, among others,
the XInclude spec.

Enter <ptr> (case (b) at the top of this message). You can't prevent it
from bearing the /language/ property, as described by both specs in
their own ways. You can only try to ban the xml:lang attribute from
appearing there, but that is irrelevant, since the /language/ property
will be inherited anyway. The very same reasoning goes for any other
element that performs a stand-off function, i.e. an element that only
has /virtual/ content until after the stand-off algorithm finishes with
it and supplies it with real content.

I see no way for the TEI to reject this view unless it distances itself
from the XML technology that it so heavily relies on.

One more thing: I feel it legitimate to argue from both the specs here
for the same reason that I argued against the definition of "XML
Literalist" on xml-dev, as suggested by Roger Costello: because the XML
Spec is no Holy Book of whatever sort, to be followed literally -- it's
a skeleton to be filled in by the subsequent specs. The XML Spec was not
able to predict the future developments of XML technology. It was not
able to predict the spread of stand-off markup techniques (or at least
predicting it wasn't crucial). So when Syd says:

> I
> don't believe there is any chance that the W3C XML Specification
> (which is where xml:lang= is defined) includes remotely referenced
> content when it says [...]

my reaction is to disagree (because the Spec was meant to leave holes
for the future to fill in, and we're filling one such hole here), or to
turn this upside down and say that even if Syd is right, it's no
obstacle, because we're talking about /virtual/ content now. Once the
(virtual or real) merger of the two (or more) resources is taken into
account, it's all nice and well-behaved, and according to the rules of
the old skeletal Spec.

To re-iterate: I don't think the TEI can distance itself from xml:lang
on <ptr> or stand-offy elements. In overly dramatic tones one could say
that that would basically mean distancing itself from XML.

Best,

  Piotr

[1]: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml11/#sec-lang-tag
[2]: http://www.w3.org/TR/xinclude/#language

On 06.04.2011 15:15, Syd Bauman wrote:
> For the most part I agree with Lou, here. While Piotr is absolutely
> correct, this is a "natural" sort of ambiguity to have introduced, I
> don't believe there is any chance that the W3C XML Specification
> (which is where xml:lang= is defined) includes remotely referenced
> content when it says
> 
>      ... in the contents and attribute values of any element in an
>      XML document.    -- _Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.1 (Second
>                          Edition)_, section 2.12 "Language Identification"
>                          http://www.w3.org/TR/xml11/#sec-lang-tag
> 
> Thus I think of it as a natural, anticipatable mistake to make. But a
> mistake nonetheless. How, or for that matter whether, one goes about
> pointing this out to linguists who have been doing this for years
> with absolutely no negative consequences (after all, it may be wrong,
> but it doesn't actually cause any problems, does it?) is another
> story.
> 
> 
> LB> If I had my way I would actually ban the use of xml:lang on empty
> LB> elements like <ptr>
> 
> Glad you're on board, and would love to see this happen. (The same is
> true of xml:space=.) Of course, it isn't as easy to do as it seems at
> first blush, because you wouldn't want to ban these attributes on
> empty elements like <addSpan>.
> 

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