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   Re: [xml-dev] lots of WS reading material

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John Cowan wrote:

> "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" scripsit:
> > Does the Infoset warranty that as well as
> > XML 1.0?  Granted, it can be done with other
> > syntaxes as well, and most of us know, it gets
> > down to choosing one and sticking with it.
> Sure it does.  The Infoset is ridiculously close to the XML surface; it
> just abstracts away crap like "How many spaces between attributes?" and
> "What kind of quotation mark?" and the like.  About the only thing that
> disappears without a trace is the physical entity structure.

I enter this discussion with considerable reluctance, because after nearly
two years (see
http://aspn.activestate.com/ASPN/Mail/Message/xml-dev/670239) I know that
John will find my argument unconvincing and that he absolutely believes it
evaporates in the glare of his rebuttal, above. Nevertheless, in philology
the pivotal discovery of the twentieth century was of the primacy of
syntax. Milman Parry demolished two hundred years of the most exquisite
scholarship with the deceptively simple observation that the essential
characteristic of oral traditional poetry (mankind's first composition) is
the 'physical entity structure' of its metrically-marked syntax. There is
an exact correspondence between an infoset and the syntax from which it is
divined, on the one hand, and on the other hand the elaborate structure of
literary sensibility, critical exegesis, and aesthetics which was once
derived from Homeric poetry. In the seventy-five years since Parry, it has
been necessary to re-assemble, where it is possible, literary, historical,
and aesthetic understandings of the poetry not from some abstract poetics
but from the much harder reality of how the necessities of grammatical
inflection meet the necessities of metrics in the syllable-by-syllable
syntax of the text. Only the text itself can provide the corrective
evidence on which Parry relied, precisely because only the text preserves
the warts-and-all syntactic instance.

So, the fundamental question of 'What is XML?' resolves to two possible
answers. Either an XML instance is
    an hierarchical tree structure
    the realization of infoset nodes
    the serialization of a document object

or it is lexical content plus markup; it requires a process to render or to
realize it at each use; and it requires that such a process acts directly
upon syntax to elaborate the specific, possibly unique, semantics of that
instance on that occasion. The difference between these two understandings
of XML is that one approach can survive changes, even over millennia, in
the abstract understanding of given content, and that the other does not.


Walter Perry


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