What is a text? (was Re: Back to Principle 1)

Al raised an important issue.

I would tend to maintain that musical notation, for example, is a "text"
in the required sense of the term, as is mathematical notation, natural
language, the text of a computer programme, a formal language, etc.

The underlying question is: what is the criterion of identification here?
Natural language is medium-independent because the signs of which it is
composed are related to each other according to syntactic conventions, and
are not intrinsically tied to any specific set of phonemes, graphemes,
etc. Thus the linguistic relations among the signs can be represented in
phonemes (including, of course, the conventional ones used in speaking the
language), in graphemes (in theory many different systems could be chosen,
apart from those which are conventionally used, for example the written
alphabet), etc.

I am sure that linguists have criteria with which to distinguish langauges
(and other systems of conventional symbols) from other kinds of
presentational phenomena (E.G. non-linguistic sounds and images).

One of the basic requirements of the guidelines, then, is to start with
the most language-like (or symbolic) representation possible, which can
then be presented in a range of media. The requirement for "equivalents"
arises when this approach can not be or has not been followed.

Linguistically informed readers can doubtless supply the proper
terminology in which such criteria are normally expressed, which would
then serve to delimit our understanding of what a "text" is for purposes
of the guidelines.

Received on Monday, 17 July 2000 00:11:19 UTC