A question on nomenclature

Reynolds, Gregg greynolds at datalogics.com
Tue Dec 7 17:26:48 GMT 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hunter, David [mailto:dhunter at Mobility.com]
> Sent: Monday, December 06, 1999 4:26 PM
> <name>
>   <first/>
>   <middle/>
>   <last/>
> </name>
> A simple question.  What is that?

It's a string.  If you view it from the perspective of formal grammar, then
it's a sentence in any language whose grammar defines it as such; an
infinite number such grammars are definable using XML DTDs.  But it is also
a sentence in a language whose grammar stipulates that all sentences
sandwich "dd" between any two strings.  Plus an infinite number of other
languages, including the one whose only legal sentence is just that string.

> My choices so far:
> -an "application of XML", or possibly just "application", 
> although this
> would cause confusion with "application" as defined in the spec.

Right.  "XML Application" is marketing weaselspeak.  There are no XML
applications, only languages (grammars) defined using XML.  (Ever hear of an
"SQL application"?)

> -a "vocabulary" (the one I personally use, although I may 
> change after this
> thread...)

Makes a certain intuitive sense, but I'd say vocab is better left to mean
the words instead of the sentences - i.e., it's tied up with the concepts
being modeled, in this case various kinds of names.

> -a "grammar"

Nope.  Grammars is rules.  What you've written doesn't express any rules;
you've got to have a metalanguage to have a grammar, too.

> Keep in mind I'm talking about the "structure" there, not the 
> "instance" of
> that "structure".  (I want to describe the "class", not the 
> "object".)  I

Not sure what you mean.  I take it you're after the structural
"interpretation", as it were, of the instance.  

> I'd want to create as little confusion as possible, so would 
> I be safe in
> calling the structure I created a "vocabulary"?  Do things 

I think you'd run into trouble eventually, since one generally uses tagnames
with a recognizable meaning in ordinary discourse.  So you'd end up with
"register confusion": uncertainty about when "vocab" means formal
grammatical structures, and when it means the semantic realities being
modeled by those structures.

> Any thoughts or opinions would be appreciated.  Any 
> documentation that I've
> missed which states emphatically "this is what you would call 
> it" would be
> even more appreciated, but I don't think it's out there...

Assuming you're interested in Truth and Clarity, I'd look in the section on
formal languages and mathematical logic, and avoid industry-generated stuff,
which tends to be rather solipsistic.  Stoy's classic "Denotational
Semantics" (you can get it through Amazon etc.) is very helpful in
clarifying the relationship between syntax and "meaning".  Also try Spivey's
ZRM (http://spivey.oriel.ox.ac.uk/~mike/zrm/).  Neither of these directly
deals with XML, but XML is a specific case of a more general phenomenon;
reading those two works in particular was a huge help for me at least in
understanding the foundations of XMLdom.  Caveat:  when you hear the word
"architecture", reach for your revolver.


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