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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: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 20:54:43 -0700

[James Tauber:]

| Perhaps you misunderstand what I mean by "behaviour". I am referring
| to how the content will be display and how it will respond to events
| like clicking.

I am, too.  I am saying that at the machine level, behavior (or
appearance) *is* meaning.  The meaning of something is the way it
makes the machine behave.  That's all there is, there ain't no more.

| All I am trying to say is that the specification that PatientNames are
| to be displayed in blue and are to bring up that patient's record when
| clicked on is not the same thing as semantics and we shouldn't call it
| semantics.

But that further level of meaning you're reaching for is meaning for
humans, not meaning for the machine.  And right now and for the
forseeable future, that level of meaning can be conveyed only by
natural language.  The meaning of "PatientName" to a machine is the
set of behaviors it is supposed to exhibit when presented with
something identified as such.  The meaning of "PatientName" to you and
me is something that involves a knowledge of what a patient is and
what a name is, and (more to the point) why and under what
circumstances we should care what happens to the person with that
name, and (even more to the point) what the relationship is between
all these symbols and the actually existent physical object they refer
to.  We can say all this in prose, but not in a way that will be
interpretable by machines for a long time.


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