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Re: the term "identifies"

From: pat hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 00:57:11 -0500
Message-Id: <p06001a12bb428103f33b@[]>
To: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Cc: www-tag@w3.org

>  > Suggestion, though: don't
>>  say 'denotes'. Instead say something like "indicates",
>How about "identifies"?  :-)
>It seems to me like the word "identifies", as used in RFC 2396 and
>WebArch often bothers you, and I don't quite understand why.

Mostly, I can think of two rather different 
meanings for it, and I want to know which is 
intended, and I can't get an answer, which is 
very frustrating.

>Trying to think as a native English speaker (instead of someone who
>wastes his afternoons on www-tag), I'd say "X identifies Y" means that
>X is a some property uniquely held by Y, or at least held only by Y
>among some implied set of objects.  ("Her dark hair identifies my
>youngest daughter.")  That's a very different sense from how
>RFC2396/WebArch use the word, though.   Let's try a dictionary
>     (transitive senses)
>     1 a : to cause to be or become identical b : to conceive as united
>     (as in spirit, outlook, or principle) <groups that are identified
>     with conservation>
>                     [ No, that's not it. ]
>     2 a : to establish the identity of b : to determine the taxonomic
>     position of (a biological specimen)
>                     [ That's my sense, as in "dark hair" ]

Right, that makes intuitive English sense, sure. 
BUt that just doesn't make sense applied to URIs: 
they needn't do that. If I just make one up at 
random, it almost certainly won't do that.

>     (intransitive senses)
>     1 : to be or become the same
>                     [ Nope ]
>     2 : to practice psychological identification <identify with the
>     hero of a novel> 
>                     [ Nope ]
>So my native-speaker-sense agrees with the dictionary. 
>Putting my programmer/TAG-groupie hat back on.... hold on.  Ah, okay.
>That makes sense: "identifies" as found in RFC2396/WebArch is probably
>back-formed from "identifier" as the term is used by programmers.

That is my hypothesis, also.

>programming language grammars, "identifier" is the superclass of
>"variable", "constant", and maybe some other things.  That is, an
>"identifier" is a string of characters which are associated (in some
>scope) via the symbol table with some area of memory, a constant
>value, a class definition, or something like that.  The string of
>characters "identifies" the memory location, constant value, etc.
>This is kind of sense 2a above: in the context of the particular
>program, the string shows us (via the symbol table) a particular
>(identified) program structure.

Right, that (extended from a memory location to the entire Web) is one sense.

>Anyway, this makes "identifies" pretty much synonymous with "is a name
>for", or "denotes", right?

Nooooooo. That's the point, it doesn't. Denotes 
is the OTHER sense.  They are NOT the same, in 
fact they have almost nothing to do with one 
another, and I still don't know which one is 


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Received on Tuesday, 22 July 2003 01:57:15 UTC

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