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Re: Cleaning House

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Sun, 6 May 2007 03:20:46 -0700
Message-Id: <99A550BC-80BE-461D-9DCD-98130C0B13A2@apple.com>
Cc: www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org
To: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>


On May 6, 2007, at 2:54 AM, Philip & Le Khanh wrote:

> Murray Maloney wrote:
>
>> I see no advantage to using <em> over <i>. That is largely because  
>> they both fall back to an italic typeface in most graphical browsers.
>
> How an element "falls back in most graphical browsers" is completely
> and utterly irrelevant to its semantics.  If the semantics of HTML
> were defined by how each element in it "falls back in most graphical
> browsers", then HTML would be 100% presentational.  Instead, the
> semantics are defined by the specification, and (in most cases)
> heuristically inferable from the name of the element (for
> educated native speakers of English).

Are the semantics defined solely by the specification  
(Prescriptivism) or informed by actual use (Descriptivism)? For human  
languages, linguists generally take the Descriptivist approach. This  
turns out to be a more productive way to interpret artifacts in human  
languages such as English.

For HTML, there is no significant distinction in attested use between  
<em> and <i>. In practice they are used in the same kinds of  
contexts. However, there is a nominal difference in the spec.

Regards,
Maciej
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 10:20:58 UTC

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