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RE: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2005 09:57:08 -0500
Message-ID: <6EED8F7006A883459D4818686BCE3B3B01EA3CAD@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Christophe Strobbe" <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

Christophe, thank you for bringing more linguistic depth and breadth to our discussion. I certainly learned a great deal from the examples you've provided for languages other than English.

Concerning the proposal to make GL 3.1 L3 SC3 read, "A mechanism for finding the expanded form of abbreviations is available," you wrote:

<blockquote cite="christophe">
It depends on how you define "abbreviation", because the term appears to have two meanings in this context: 1. The shortened form of a word. 2. Shorthand for "abbreviated/shortened form"; superset of abbreviation (1), initialism and acronym.
</blockquote>

I think it's been amply demonstrated that we're not going to get much more help from the dictionaries. There are slight inconsistencies from one dictionary to the next, as well as differences in usage among people who appear to speak the ssame language (e.g., speakers of English, French, Portuguese, etc.,  who live on different continents.

I think we're going to have to take a deep, collective breath and decide upon or craft a definition that, in our best judgment, will serve both people with disabilities and authors of Web content.

I think Christophe has just provided such a definition, and I propose we accept it and move on.

John

"Good design is accessible design."

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 Christophe Strobbe
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 7:28 AM
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: RE: proposed new definitions for abbreviation and acronym




At 20:47 17/09/2005, John M Slatin wrote:
<blockquote>
Roberto writes:
<blockquote cite="Roberto">
I suggest to use this:
"A mechanism for finding the expanded form of abbreviations is available."

Note: initialism [definition] and acronym [definition] are special kind of abbreviation. </blockquote cite="Roberto">

This seems a cleaner solution than adding "initialisms" to the SC. The Glossary would define all three terms (abbreviation, acronym, initialism). The Guide would then point to appropriate general and technology-specific techniques. </blockquote>


It depends on how you define "abbreviation", because the term appears to have two meanings in this context: 1. The shortened form of a word. 2. Shorthand for "abbreviated/shortened form"; superset of abbreviation (1), initialism and acronym.

Some abbreviations and acronyms are spelled and used as nouns, e.g.
- info for information (English, French) or informatie (Dutch);
- bieb for bibliotheek (Dutch: library);
- ovni (object volant non-identifiť) in French (meaning: UFO);
- car for autocar (French); mat for matin (French);
- Kripo for Kriminalpolizei (German);
- ...

In some cases, the expanded form only exists in a foreign language, so it may be more helpful to provide an explanation in the host language instead of the original language:
- vip in Dutch (from English: very important person);
- e.g. in English (from Latin: exempli gratia);
- ABS in English and Dutch (from German: Antiblockiersystem);
- etc.

Some abbreviations acquire a connotation that is not present in the orginal form, e.g. in Dutch: BV for Bekende Vlaming (well-known/famous Fleming) has a slightly ironic/mocking connotation because the 'fame' is often the result of media hype rather than merit.

Note that contractions (e.g. wanna, aren't, won't, ...) are also shortened 
forms
but that we probably don't want to include them in a criterion that requires expanded forms, or at least not in English.

I looked up the terms "abbreviation", "acronym" and "initialism" in a few 
other
dictionaries (in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch). I can't help 
thinking
that some lexicographers could have done a better job.
Also, if you assume that "word" in any of these definitions implies "pronounceable" and that initialisms can't be pronounced as words, some languages may not have a word for "initialism". I think this is the case for Dutch and German.

According to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary [1] using 'inialism' as synonym for 'acronym' is typical of American usage (as opposed to British usage).

Although less well know, the term initialism is older than the term acronym: in English, initialism dates back to the late 19th century; acronym to the 1940s.


[1] http://www.chambersharrap.co.uk/chambers/chref/chref.py/main

Regards,

Christophe Strobbe



-- 
Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Departement of Electrical Engineering - Research Group on 
Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 - 3001 Leuven-Heverlee - BELGIUM
tel: +32 16 32 85 51
http://www.docarch.be/  


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Received on Tuesday, 20 September 2005 14:58:15 GMT

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