About SML and internationalization

Didier PH Martin martind at netfolder.com
Sat Nov 27 18:21:19 GMT 1999


Rick Jelliffe said:
I agree that it is good to have standard
terms for common things, and that English is the best choice
at the moment, but unfortunately not every word exists in
English and most people in the world do not speak it or read

Why reduce markup to mere nmemonics rather than be able
to use names?

didier says:
I totally agree with Rick.

Don, how would you, in English, markup a text talking about snow? In the
Inuit language (you know these people living up north of Canada) there is
approx. 30 different words to qualify snow. To be able to qualify snow up
there and therefore being able to markup text about snow requires a deep
knowledge of it and thus, have words to express this knowledge. How many
words an average English engineer has for snow?(I mean the average
non-intuit english speaking engineer)

No, Don, to restrict SML solely to English is a bit a "monopolistic" view of
the world isn't it? As far as I know, we are trying to resolve some problem
that monopolies brought to us, not trying to create new ones (I do not mean
us in this group, I mean us as a society and some group who not necessarily
behaved for our best interest, maybe not their fault. It is like in the
godfather movie where the principal character said: Its just business :-)

I suggest that we refer a bit about the philosophy language. Is the language
a mirror of the knowledge or is the knowledge independent of the language?
we still don't know. However, what we do know, and people fortunate enough
to speak more than language know (if they are fortunate enough to have this
wisdom), is that each language leads you to a different view of the world.
If we use words to create markup tags then a markup has some meaning for a
particular culture. You may be able to express some concepts in some
languages with a simple words (therefore an element name) and in some other
languages as a sentence (hard to transform that into an element's name :-)

To take a concrete example, for those fortunate enough to have a Unicode
editor or viewer just take a look at the text I included with the message.
It is a text I got from Jon Bosak. The text is marked up in Japanese but the
content is not. Just take a look to this document. Make some silence in your
head and then as you look at it, just represent in your mind that on the 6
billion people on earth, a tiny fraction is English speaking. Just look at
the document, make silence in your head and let it bring to you some
awareness about the impacts of having an English only markup system. Make
some silence in your head, and let the document give you the awareness that
even if American maps show the American continent as its center, that the
earth is in fact a sphere and that there is no such center. Make some
silence, and remember how we are now calling the epoch where it was
forbidden to even think that the sun may be at the center of our immediate
universe (i.e the solar system). Finally let this text tell you that a big
majority of the world is not English speaking. By the way, how do feel to
look at a non English markup? And if you do not have an editor that can show
you this text and its markup then ask to yourself why? The text may have no
meaning for you but it certainly has for someone talking this language. Just
let the text tell you that there is something else outside USA.

Sorry, I had to say that even if I think that the SML reflection and all the
whys it brings to the surface is like fresh air and brought a talk that is
no longer behind closed doors and that this talk finally founds its way to
the public place. This is progress and the inalienable right to challenge,
discuss, question the status quo, which is, in the essence of science.
Finally, we are maybe altogether finding the whys and how behind some
decisions - good, bad or just compromises. And also, maybe a good occasion
to let us understand what XML is, after all. And why not, improve it but not
to the detriment of 85% of the planet.

Didier PH Martin
mailto:martind at netfolder.com
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