Another look at namespaces

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at
Sat Sep 18 16:35:14 BST 1999

We seem to have fallen into linguistics.

At 05:08 PM 9/17/99 +0200, Paul Prescod wrote:
>Rick Jelliffe wrote:
>> Again, Andrew is simply conflating schema and namespace.  The idea that
>> he and Tim are putting forward is that a language is defined by a single
>> set of content models; this confuses "language" with "grammar" 
>What definition of language are you using that does NOT state that every
>language has one and only one grammar. Is there a book I can read that
>defines it? The SGML Cookbook doesn't count.

I could start with H.L. Mencken's _The American Language_ (Fourth Edition
with Supplements, 1948), in particular a citation of Noah Webster, in 1789:
(second supplement, p. 333)

>The most difficult task now to be be performed by the advocates
>of pure English is to restrain the influence of men learned in
>Greek and Latin, but ignorant of their own tongue, who have labored
>to reject much good English because they have not understood the
>original construction of the language.... They seem not to consider
>that grammar is formed on language, and not language on grammar.

That last sentence seems to summarize the problem we're having here.  

Whether or not _The SGML Cookbook_ makes this claim that a language is not
constrained to a single grammar, I'll be making that claim in my next book,
probably giving it an entire chapter for folks who find this issue
intriguing. (Fortunately, the book isn't meant to be read straight through,
so those who find this issue boring can skip around.)

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer (2nd Ed - September)
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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