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   RE: Inheritance in XML

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  • From: Jon.Bosak@eng.Sun.COM (Jon Bosak)
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 15:53:11 -0700

| > Here are some examples of things that can provide semantics for XML
| > documents:
| [...]
| > * Stylesheeets.
| Sorry to bring it up again, but I still think we should distinguish
| semantics from behaviour. Stylesheets *do not* provide semantics, they
| provide behaviour. Sure, how something behaves ought to be linked to
| what it means but it ain't the stylesheet that's providing the
| meaning.

Oh dear oh dear.  Repeat this saying ten times before you go to bed
every night:

   The meaning of a word is its use.  (L. Wittgenstein)

This is where arguments about the meaning of meaning finally end up.
I think he was right, but no wonder the guy killed himself.

| Meaning/semantics is surely given by schemata that associate element
| types, etc with ontologies.

I agree in principle, but those ontologies at this point are, as far
as I know, completely dependent on natural languages for their own
meaning.  It seems to me that the understanding of meaning by machines
can come only after we have agreed on a universal taxonomy of ideas
that transcends all the different assumptions that underly natural
language -- something like Roget's original system, but consisting of
language-independent primitives.  I'm not holding my breath until we
see that.  And in the absence of this semantic substrate, I think that
the only meaning we get is behavior and appearance, which the machines
can handle, and good old prose, which they can't.


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