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Re: controlled use of language

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 17 May 2002 10:13:42 -0400 (EDT)
To: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
cc: lisa Seeman <seeman@netvision.net.il>, WAI GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0205170518540.26527-100000@tux.w3.org>
As a linguist I can sympathise with the idea that trying to fix a single
simple language is doomed to failure. Parolone esperanton?

I donīt think that essential feature of people means that Lisa is barking up
the wrong tree (or is trying to do the wrong thing). A given communication in
language relies on the conventions of the time, and these change. Nobody
really seems to understand what "handsome is as handsome does" used to mean,
although through strange history it still makes sense in the modern usage.

At any time, there are ways of controlling language usage that can provide a
simplification, especially if they are agreed conventions. That is a bit
different to having entirely unambiguous language - but improvements are
better than nothing.

As it happens I talked to a large company that has automated tools for
enforcing this in their documents, as well as another who put a high priority
on meeting their rules for simple language and illustration in all documents.

As a further example, many armies and training schools in particular have
been doing this for years - because it is important to them that their
message is communicated.

There is always an argument that acessibility is incompatible with art. I
donīt believe that is a sound argument. However, it is possible to make art
that is not compatible with accessibility. It is possible to make art that is
compatible with accessibility. It is possible to use the methods developed in
art to enrich communication. This is not the same as arguing that the most
important feature of the US Constitution is its artistic value. The most
important feature, clearly, is the rules it lays out for a society to govern
itself, and to the extent those are not able to be clearly interpreted and
understood there are all sorts of corrective measures required, like an
expensive collection of mostly old men to help interpret.

For the rest, it is a question of our skill as writers, just as producing
appropriate alt text is a question of our skill at interpreting graphic
communication and translating the message to text. The more we can create
simple rules, the easier that most things will become. We should not make the
hard things impossible, but it is very helpfulto make the common things easy.

Chaals

On Thu, 16 May 2002, William Loughborough wrote:

  At 10:16 PM 5/15/2002 -0700, lisa Seeman wrote:
  >controlled use of language

  Who will control the controllers? If it is to be some version of the French
  Academe, they must be prepared for forms of ridicule/satire beyond anything
  presently available.

Certainly. Thanks in advance for supplying it <grin/>
Received on Friday, 17 May 2002 10:13:45 GMT

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