[Humanist] 26.640 XML &c

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jan 2 08:58:01 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 640.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2013 04:56:59 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.637 XML & what kind of scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20121231073726.9DE03ED6 at digitalhumanities.org>


> Why the word "interpretation" rather than "translation," at least in the
> simple cases? I can see more complex cases being more interpretive.

because conversion from one medium to another always involves some
form of interpretation. Even if you write a program to "translate"
Microsoft Word to XML you have to decide when you write the program
which source codes get mapped to which target codes. There must be a
dozen reasons why something could be in italics. What about foreign
words or phrases? You'd want to use <foreign>, not <emph> or <hi
rend="italics">. What about stage directions in a play? You'd want to
use <stage rend="italics">...  Note that below Holly and I disagree on
how to encode italics. Differences of interpretation create real and
non-trivial disputes even in "simple cases".


> I am wondering why the decision was
> made to render "really" as emphasis rather than as italics or retain them
> in quotation marks.

Why not? That's what the <emph> code is for. (Btw it wasn't meant to
be in quotation marks). But there are always several ways to encode
the same textual phenomenon. Imagine that you and I are transcribing
some printed correspondence. You code italics as <hi rend="italics">
and I code it as <emph>. Then we push the transcriptions through some
software, and get inconsistent output. That's why I don't think we can
ever have a "standard" way to mark up texts, that goes beyond a mere
vocabulary of pre-defined codes.

> So I'm simply curious about this one as it is not the decision
> that I, as an editor, would have made

Of course everyone makes different decisions about every textual
phenomenon that they see. Each transcription thus bears the
fingerprint of the person who made it. As long as we encode things
this way we can't ever develop general software solutions to editorial

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch Lab
University of Queensland

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