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Re: SD4 - Schema format

From: Henry S. Thompson <ht@cogsci.ed.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 16 May 97 12:15:25 BST
Message-Id: <9374.199705161115@grogan.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>
To: w3c-sgml-wg@w3.org
[This proposal owes a lot to discussions with Istvan Cseri, Andrew
Layman and others at Microsoft]

Although I realise the schema proposal could be seen as reopening the
'DTD in XML vs. DTD as per SGML' debate which we settled 8 months ago,
I think there is a lot of merit to doing so, particularly bearing in
mind the following crucial point in Jean's message:

> In other words, we propose to keep the existing DTD syntax for
> compatibility reasons and to define another syntax which will
> grand-father the current DTD features but will be using the current
> instance syntax (i.e. well formed tags and attributes)

My take on this is that the proposal I outline below must be
algorithmically translatable back to vanilla XML declaration syntax,
and I believe this to be true.  In other words, in the first instance
you can think of this as a description of an XML application which
could be written today, as an exploratory model for something which
might be acceptable as an alternative syntax.

What follows is only a bare outline -- I'm drafting an extended
discussion of this at the moment and will make it available as soon as

Proposal:  Inheritance for Element Types

In my view, a great many of the things we would like to see in XML can
be achieved by one step:  introducing a class structure for element types.
This simple step provides a unified mechanism which will not only
address the issues raised by Jean with respect to schemas, but also support
principled approaches to namespaces and structured attributes without
(much :-) additional special-purpose syntax.  It should
also virtually eliminate the need for disjunction ('|') in content
models, and reduce considerably the use of parameter entities.

Here's a VERY brief introduction:

I propose that element type declarations, as expressed in XML, can
inherit content models and/or attribute type declarations from other
element types.  Content-model inheritance is restricted to a single
super-class chain, but attribute inheritance can have multiple
sources.  The appearance of an element type name in a content model
not only allows elements of that type, but also elements of any of its
sub-class types, to appear at the relevant point in instances.

At the moment I distinguish abstract element types, which exist only
to have their identity and attributes inherited, and which can't
actually appear in instances, from ordinary element types with content
models, but this may not actually be necessary.

Here's a simple two-part example, abstracted from the common situation
where you use parameter entities to implement a class structure.  The
mechanisms for identifying external and internal subsets, document
elements, etc. should not be taken seriously.

Old Style:

<!entity % sisters '%usersisters;c1|c2'>
<!entity % sharedattrs 'fa (a|b) a'>
<!element lev1 ((%sisters)*)>
<!element c1 (xy)>
<!attlist c1 %sharedattrs;>
<!element c2 (yz)>
<!attlist c2 %sharedattrs;>

New Style (with pseudo-oldstyle as comments):

 File simp.xtd:

  <?XML version='1.0' rmd='all'?>
  <?OOXML level='doctype'?>
  <!--* A simple illustration of how to use abstract classes to build
	user-extendable disjunctions in DTDs *-->
  <!doctype doctype SYSTEM 'file:doctype.dtd'>

  <!--* <!element foo (fooc*)> *-->
  <eltdcl gi='foo'>
   <mgrp><elt exp='star' gi='fooc'/></mgrp>

  <!--* <!element abstract fooc ANY> <!attlist fooc fa (a|b) 'a'> -->
  <eltdcl gi='fooc' type='abstract'>
    <enum name='fa' default='a'><eval val='a'/><eval val='b'/></enum>
  <!--* Note there might be implicit namespaces here *-->

  <!--* <!element c1 specialises fooc (xy)> *-->
  <eltdcl gi='c1' super='fooc'>
   <mgrp><elt gi='xy'/></mgrp>

  <!--* <!element c2 specialises fooc (yz)> *-->
  <eltdcl gi='c2' super='fooc'>
   <mgrp><elt gi='yz'/></mgrp>

  <!--* <!element xy any> <!element yz any> *-->
  <eltdcl gi='xy'><any/></eltdcl>
  <eltdcl gi='yz'><any/></eltdcl>


The crucial point is that no parameter entity hacking is needed to add
an additional element type to the possible daughters of 'foo' -- we
just add another element type which specialises 'fooc':

  <?XML version='1.0'?>
  <?OOXML? level='instance'>
  <!doctype instance SYSTEM 'file:instance.dtd'>
   <doctype name="foo" extsubset='file:simpplus.xtd'>
    <!--* <!element c3 specialises fooc empty> *-->
    <eltdcl gi='c3' super='fooc'>
    <c1 fa=b>
    <c3 fa=a/>
     <yz>. . .</yz>

Constructing the full vanilla DTD is left as an exercise for the
reader :-).

Received on Friday, 16 May 1997 07:16:23 UTC

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