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Re: Semantic pragmatic

From: Thanasis Kinias <tkinias@optimalco.com>
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 21:29:20 -0700
To: dd@w3.org, Daniel Dardailler <danield@w3.org>, seeman <seeman@netvision.net.il>
Cc: "_W3C-WAI Web Content Access. Guidelines List" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-id: <01062921292001.01532@localhost.localdomain>
On Wednesday 27 June 2001 01:43, Daniel Dardailler wrote:
> > E.g. <nonliteral translation="going from bad to worse"> out of the
> > frying pan into the fire</nonliteral>
> Something like that (modulo the attribute design) would also benefit
> ESL (English as Second Language) like me who have problem
> understanding idioms/expressions usually learnt in the early ages of
> the native speakers.

Unfortunately, the "literalness" of a word or expression is a very subjective 
determination.  By way of example, consider the words "fascinate" and 
"enchant."  Both originally meant to spellbind or bewitch -- i.e., to use 
sorcery or magic.  However, few speakers of English consider the original, 
literal meaning of these words when using them.  Should one mark up 
"fascinating" when one uses it to mean "very interesting" as opposed to its 
literal meaning of "sorcerous"?  If not, then where is the distinction 
made?  Such a checkpoint would be, I fear, unverifiable.

Most English is very idiomatic, in ways that native speakers really do not 
comprehend most of the time, especially those with low literacy levels.  In 
fact, most people, it seems, would write "put up with" instead of "tolerate," 
especially if told to write "clearly and simply."  I don't believe most 
American Web designers have the ability to distinguish nonliteral/idiomatic 
language sufficiently to mark it up properly, even if it were clearly defined.

Also, in some writing, a certain intentional vagueness of meaning is part of 
the communication -- humour is frequently based on such things.  And one 
can't really mark up humour.

Some means of designating mode of writing (e.g., Brussels bureaucratic 
English versus Douglas Adams [R.I.P.] versus American creative-writing 
textbook) might be useful, but that really falls under the markup folks' 

Using Ruby (as Charles suggested [1]) is a good solution for certain cases, 
but as he mentioned, all this falls under general clarity of communication.

1. <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-gl/2001AprJun/0710.html>

Thanasis Kinias
Vice President & Manager of Information Systems
Optimal LLC
Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Received on Saturday, 30 June 2001 00:29:09 UTC

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