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Re: [xml-dev] Excellent quote from Len Bullard

On Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 5:21 AM, Costello, Roger L. <costello@mitre.org> wrote:
> Hi Folks,
>> Today I was reviewing some notes and came across a statement Len Bullard
>> made long ago.
>> It is worth repeating often:
>>         Markup does not apply semantics.
>>         Semantics are applied to the markup.
>>                         Len Bullard

At 2013-10-11 12:06 +0200, Labu Ela Fuma ┬┐Ke Fuuuu Mala Buela? wrote:
Whats the meaning or deep sense of it? Is somewhat lost on me.
When you see the element "<b>" do you immediately think of "bold"?

If so, then for you the markup is applying the semantics.

However, the proper way to look at "<b>" is to see that all it is is a piece of information that has been given the label "<b>". It has no further meaning other than having been labeled.

If I choose to send this markup to a browser, the browser applies the semantics of boldness to the content labeled "<b>" and you see the content in a bold weight.

If I choose to send this markup to a chemical composition analysis tool, it might choose to apply the semantic of "Boron" to the content of the element.

It is a very long (both long-time and lengthy) debate in our industry about whether or not SGML/XML *does* semantics as some people think. I am in the camp of XML doesn't do semantics, XML only labels a hierarchical arrangement of information.

The phrase I've used for many years with my students is "Meaning is in the eye of the beholder of SGML/XML", as I get to choose whatever I want to choose as the meaning of information that is marked up as a particular element. Of course interoperability is enhanced (though not guaranteed) if I interpret the same meaning of the content as intended by the sender of the document, but that doesn't impose on me that I have to consider the same meaning. I could freely choose to look at the data in a totally different way if that suits me, perhaps in order to glean a different kind of result than what was intended. And I think "<b>" is a good example: certainly the original HTML said that "<b>" is for a bold font, but if all I want is emphasis applied to the content, I could choose to colour the text, change the size of the text, ring a audio bell, or do anything I want with the text. There is nothing in XML that says I have to present the text in bold, that is only what was intended by the author of the document when they chose that label for the content thinking of HTML interpretation.

Len's elegant quote sums up the view of many, including myself. It must be his musical talent that gives him the wordsmithing tools to dream up such a poetic expression of a technical concept.

I hope this helps.

. . . . . . . . . Ken

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