separation of formatting...

Robin Cover robin at ACADCOMP.SIL.ORG
Thu Apr 30 03:33:11 BST 1998


Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 20:41:18 -0400
From: Paul Prescod <papresco at>

Murray Maloney wrote:
> However, neither the SGML standard nor the XML specification
> "encourage" you to adopt this position.

It is certainly the case that SGML was designed specifically to allow the
separation of formatting and abstraction. That's easy to verify.


One of the ironies of the territory, no?  We can (do) use SGML languages
to define stylesheets, and if we want to be pernicious, we can use
SGML to define markup languages that are completely antithetical to
the "values" that are implicit in SGML, yet which are not subject to
enforcement by SGML, which disclaims interest in semantics.  And
so, license for subversion is unbounded.  So with primitive myths
of our origins, and of language as a feature of humanness: the same
tongue that is created to bless can curse.

In a territory less sublime: we are now almost forced, given
post-modern consensus, that the poem escapes the author (-ial
intent) and becomes the property of the community, however bitter
the lament of protest by the author.

I think these are ideas that don't apply, at least so obviously,
to programming languages.  SGML does (did) have a religious aspect
to it, but provided inadequate formal means to guard its dogma.


Robin Cover                    Email: robin at
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