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Re: Cleaning House

From: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 11:59:46 +0100
Message-ID: <463DB522.1090302@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
To: www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org

Anne van Kesteren wrote:

> Also, you seem to completely ignore the other point Maciej made (and 
> question):
> # Are the semantics defined solely by the specification (Prescriptivism)
> # or informed by actual use (Descriptivism)? For human languages,
> # linguists generally take the Descriptivist approach. This turns out to
> # be a more productive way to interpret artifacts in human languages such
> # as English.

I'll return to your earlier point later : it requires careful
thought before composition.  But the latter point is more
easily addressed : "Descriptivism" is more common on
English-speaking countries than in some others -- "L'Académie
Française" is unashamably prescriptive (and proscriptive),
as is (I believe) its German counterpart.  The current
Anglophone obsession with descriptivism is simply leading
to a loss of precision : most now write "like x" where
"such as x" would have once been the norm.  As a result,
it is no longer clear (when "like" is used) whether "x"
includes or excludes the topic under discussion.  But
the loss of precisions leads to a concomittant loss in
understanding : the subtle nuances of the educated speaker
are lost when they are interpreted by those whose lack
any formal knowledge of grammar, or whose vocabularies
are too limited to encompass the idiolect of the speaker.

By "dumbing down" HTML, we risk losing the ability to express
ourselves through its medium without risk of ambiguity or
misunderstanding : that is, IMHO, too great a price to pay
simply in order to ensure that it is "accessible" (from
an authoring perspective) to /hoi polloi/.

Philip Taylor
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 10:59:44 UTC

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