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Synonyms and namespaces was: Re: DTD Notation raises a question

John Cowan wrote:
> Rod Davison wrote:
> > In Linguistics, it is well known that true synonomy does not exist.
> > two putative semantic synonyms (like "medial" and "middle") -- one can
> > find a discourse pragmatic usage of one where the other would not be
> > ("I am the middle child", *"I am the medial child.").
> Counterexamples:
> He has Jakob-Creutzfeldt disease.
> He has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
> He has subacute spongiform encephalopathy.
> These three terms may be substituted for one another in any context.

Actually this is not true. SSE is not limited to humans, JC/CJ are.
Furthermore, SSE is a type of diagnosis which can -only- be properly made
with pathology specimen, whereas a named disease may be used in the absense
of pathology confirmation.

Even usage of the terms Jakob-Creutzfeldt and Creutzfeldt-Jakob are not
interchangable, indeed you may greatly offend a great admirer of Creutzfeldt
by choosing the former over the later, and if this admirer happens to be the
head of your laboratory, or the chair, (as was the case for my medical
school thesis advisor), such usages might have a serious effect on your
future career.

Another example would be the so-called Arnold-Chiari vs. Chiari
Malformation, the former so named because students of Arnold effectively
stole Chiari's work, and promulgated this term in their writings.

Usage of one form or another of such terms often labels one in a community.

On the other hand "middle" and "medial" are simply not synonymous terms in
the medical lexicon. "middle" is an antonym of something like "outer" (i.e.
one of more than 2) while "medial" an antonym of "lateral" (i.e. one of 2)

Perhaps one reason why true synonyms might not exists, is that the existence
of two putatively synonymous terms allows for the usage of such terms
differently by different communities.

This is a reason why namespaces are important. A term might 'belong' to
different namespaces, and while synonymous in one or more (e.g.
english:middle == latin:medial) not in another (e.g. medical:middle <>

A reason why I would prefer the relaxation of the character set allowed in
names, is that phrases and terms would be more easily XML namespace
qualified, and such definitions be more easily expressable in XML based
languages (e.g. RDF/DAML).