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   Symbol Grounding and Running Code: Is XML Really Extensible?

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Noting the articles from Tim Bray [1] and Jon Udell [2],
knowing as most here do that the winking and nudging 
over namespace semantic assignments is really 
just the next level of semantic assignment to 
XML productions in general, it seems that now 
is a good time to discuss means for this.

I agree with Tim that XML is a name/label/structure 
system and as such, doesn't care much about this 
debate. However, that simply says the developer 
has to care, so we still have to face up to the 
symbol grounding problem elaborated in detail 
by Charles Peirce in his papers on semiotics over 
a hundred years ago and clarified in the works 
of John Sowa.  Harnad [3] explains it satisfactorily 
in terms of AI approaches including combining 
connection systems (eg, neural netws) with symbol 
systems.  All good background, but there are other 
approaches and we should explore these.  

In short, clearly namespaces enable composability 
at the syntactic level.  Just as clearly, many 
combinations are meaningless.  As Harnad says 
when defining systematicity:

"The patterns of interconnections do not decompose, combine 
and recombine according to a formal syntax that can be given 
a systematic semantic interpretation."

So in effect, we can create namespace aggregates 
which are not systematic. So via namespaces, 
any set of XML application productions (by which 
I mean, a production from HTML, from SVG, from 
X3D, or XSLT) can be combined and be syntactically 

How can one determine:

1.  If a given combination is meaningful
2.  How to discover that meaning
3.  How to assign that combination or even a single 
    production to a running piece of code

Item three is where the rubber meets the road.

a.  Does RDF address these questions?
b.  Is it better for worse particulary for item 3 
    than say using stylesheet assignments
c.  Are other approaches such as abstract 
    object models as good or better than RDF for 
    writing the rules of a semantically valid 

Next, is it desirable or workable that any 
arbitrary combination of XML productions from 
any language be meaningful?  I think the answer 
here is no and leads back to 1.

I think this an important topic because it touches 
on issues such as when should two application language 
working groups seek convergence, can we create 
XML application languages that don't set of IP tripwires 
by ensuring implementations based on IP aren't a part 
of the language definition, should we begin to classify 
semantically valid XML production combinations, and where 
in that will standardization impede innovation,
is it really a good idea to use a standard namespace 
name to point to running code?


[1] http://tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/08/11/SymbolGrounding
[2] http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/08/11.html#a775
[3] http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad90.sgproblem.html


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