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Re: Brainstorming - abbreviations

From: Laurens Holst <lholst@students.cs.uu.nl>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 10:29:28 +0900
Message-ID: <45F9F2F8.2060001@students.cs.uu.nl>
To: Robert Brodrecht <w3c@robertdot.org>
CC: asbjorn@ulsberg.no, public-html@w3.org
Robert Brodrecht schreef:
> Laurens Holst wrote:
>   
>> Yes, and it would not be backwards compatible with HTML4. That seems
>> kind of unacceptable, especially given that we already have <abbr> for
>> abbreviations.
>>     
>
> True.  In which case, I object to shoehorning the semantics / "gramatics"
> of acronym into abbr.  "Short" was generic enough.  "Abbr" isn't, in my
> opinion.
>
> In the end, acronym isn't hurting anything by existing.  People who want
> to call everything abbr will do it whether or not acronym exists.  Those
> of us who want the extra level of specificity can use it.

I don’t think there is agreement on ‘the semantics of acronyms’ (versus 
abbreviations). Some say that acronyms are like ABC and abbreviations 
are like Mr. and thus separate things, Wikipedia says that acronyms are 
type of abbreviation [1], but also mentions that there is great 
disagreement on what is what, and the HTML spec basically contradicts 
itself [2] in first saying something along the lines of the first, and 
subsequently continueing to provide examples of abbreviations that *are* 
like ‘ABC’. And if you Google it you get tons of different explanations 
as well.

That is one of the main problems with the current distinction; that 
nobody really knows when to use which, and everybody uses his own 
definition. Maybe from a linguistics point of view you are aware of the 
final word on the subject, but from what I can see, it’s all very vague 
and there might even not be agreement on it at all.

Enter the differences between languages. For example, maybe my concept 
of abbr versus acronym is flawed, I am Dutch and in Dutch an ‘afkorting’ 
(translation of abbreviation) is both, and ‘acroniem’ (acronym) is a 
subset of that where the abbreviation is pronounced like a word (e.g. 
radar). Linguistics speak of ‘abbreviations in the narrower sense’ to 
refer to things like Mr. which are always pronounced fully but written 
short. I suppose that’s how the problem was solved in Dutch, the term 
abbreviation is used generically, and when referring to the 
linguistically specific meaning of abbreviation they speak of ‘the 
narrower sense’. Maybe it’s the same in English, but maybe not.

In e.g. Japanese I don’t think they make any distinction at all; パソコ 
ン (pasokon) is an abbreviation of パーソナルコンピュータ (personal 
computer), so trying to explain the difference to a Japanese person and 
tell him which of the two he should use should prove to be an 
interesting effort.

So, anyway, I think we can all agree that marking up both abbreviations 
and acronyms creates more problems than it solves. Now if the 
linguistics here could agree on what means what and what’s a subset of 
what, that would be great. From my Dutch point of view, it’s 
‘abbreviation’ that is the most generic, so that would seem most 
accurate to me.

Oh, p.s. the English word ‘abbreviation’ comes from Latin brevis 
"short", and ‘acronym’ from Greek ακρον (akron) "part" + ονομα (onoma) 
"name"; "name from the parts". Maybe that helps.


~Grauw

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acronym
[2] 
http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/text.html#idx-abbreviations_and_acronyms

-- 
Ushiko-san! Kimi wa doushite, Ushiko-san nan da!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Laurens Holst, student, university of Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Website: www.grauw.nl. Backbase employee; www.backbase.com.




Received on Friday, 16 March 2007 01:30:19 GMT

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