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RE: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 12:48:16 -0500
Message-ID: <6EED8F7006A883459D4818686BCE3B3B01EA391B@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: <gez.lemon@gmail.com>, <Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com>
Cc: "WCAG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, <w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org>

Gez wrote:

<blockquote>
I think the definitions should accurately reflect the generally accepted
meaning of the words, with the guide document illustrating (or linking
to) advisory techniques, such as writing out in full any abbreviations
in the main content the first time they're used, and marking up
subsequent abbreviations using the appropriate element. Other techniques
might suggest providing a glossary of abbreviations, or glossary of
terms that include abbreviations used in the content. I definitely think
the problem should be moved to techniques, rather than redefining words.
</blockquote>
Gez, there's been no *intent* to redefine words or define them
incorrectly! Frankly, I had never heard the term "initialism" before,
but now you and Christophe have both brought it to our attention.

I've now looked up both "acronym" and "initialism" in three dictionaries
(Merriam-Webster, Compact Oxford English Dictionary, and American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).  They're not completely
consistent (I've pasted in the definitions below), and it seems to me
that the definitions Becky proposed do actually fall within generally
accepted usage, at least in the US.  However, I would have no difficulty
including the term "initialism" in the tdefinition and/or the success
criterion if doing so would clarify the scope of the success criterion.

I think The 30 June 2005 draft of the Guide to WCAG 2.0 Guideline 3.1
Level 3 Success Criterion 3 lists the techniques you're suggesting
above.  The draft Guide document is available at

http://www.w3.org/TR/2005/WD-WCAG20-GENERAL-20050630/meaning-located.htm
l


A little bit of history for others who may be wondering why we're
spending so much time on this issue.

- WCAG 1.0 includes a checkpoint (4.2, Priority 3) which requires that
acronyms are expanded.
- The current Working Draft of WCAG 2.0 (30 June 2005) includes a
success criterion (Guideline 3.1 Level 3 Success Criterion 3) requiring
that "A mechanism for finding the expanded form of acronyms and
abbreviations is available."

In short, the word "acronym" appears in normative content so it's
probably a good idea to define it.

For what it's worth, Merriam-Webster appears to treat one sense of
"acronym" as synonymous with both "abbreviation" and "initialism".  Here
is their definition of "acronym":

<blockquote
cite="http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=acronym&x
=0&y=0">
: a word (as NATO, radar, or snafu) formed from the initial letter or
letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound
term; also :
an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters :
INITIALISM
</blockquote>


Merriam-Webster also defines "initialism" as a kind of acronym:

<blockquote
cite="http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=initialis
m">
Function: noun
: an acronym formed from
initial
letters

</blockquote>

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "acronym" does not
list "initialism" as a synonym for "acronym":

<blockquote cite="http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/acronym?view=uk">
  * noun a word formed from the initial letters of other words (e.g.
laser, Aids).

  - ORIGIN from Greek akron 'end, tip' + onoma 'name'.

</blockquote> 

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines "initialism" as follows:

<blockquote
cite="http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/initialism?view=uk">
  * noun an abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced
separately (e.g. BBC).
</blockquote>

And here's how the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
defines  "acronym":
<blockquote
cite="http://www.bartleby.com/cgi-bin/texis/webinator/sitesearch?FILTER=
col61&query=acronym">
A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for
Women's Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series
of words, such
as radar...
</blockquote>

And this is the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
definition of "initialism":

<blockquote cite="http://www.bartleby.com/61/48/I0144850.html">
NOUN:
An abbreviation consisting of the first letter or letters of words in a
phrase (for example, IRS for Internal Revenue Service), syllables or
components
of a word (TNT for trinitrotoluene), or a combination of words and
syllables (ESP for extrasensory perception) and pronounced by spelling
out the letters
one by one rather than as a solid word.
</blockquote>
Hope this is helpful.
John

Dr. John M. Slatin, Director 
Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin 
FAC 248C 
1 University Station G9600 
Austin, TX 78712 
ph 512-495-4288, fax 512-495-4524 
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu 
Web http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility 



-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Gez Lemon
Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:13 PM
To: Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com
Cc: WCAG; w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org
Subject: Re: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym



Hi Becky

On 15/09/05, Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com
<Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com> wrote: <bockquote> In my search I found
several online references that did not require that acronyms be
pronounceable (maybe all of them use Webster's as a source, I didn't dig
that deep). I actually prefer the more restrictive definition
but the rest of team B did not necessarily agree with me :).   And while
I
didn't want to explicitly call it out, IE support is an issue, by using
the less restrictive definition of acronym authors can still mark
acronyms up using IE until it gets fixed.  I did think about adding a
definition for initialisms but that term is not used with WCAG so I
didn't want to
introduce it.   I agree that all acronyms are abbreviations and future
proposals for GL 3.1 will suggest deprecating the HTML acronym technique
in favor of just abbreviation (another proposal that I suspect will be
controversial).
 
Can you suggest an alternative definition?
</blockquote>

I think the definitions should accurately reflect the generally accepted
meaning of the words, with the guide document illustrating (or linking
to) advisory techniques, such as writing out in full any abbreviations
in the main content the first time they're used, and marking up
subsequent abbreviations using the appropriate element. Other techniques
might suggest providing a glossary of abbreviations, or glossary of
terms that include abbreviations used in the content. I definitely think
the problem should be moved to techniques, rather than redefining words.

Best regards,

Gez

-- 
_____________________________
Supplement your vitamins
http://juicystudio.com
Received on Friday, 16 September 2005 17:48:28 GMT

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