[sc34wg3] Some general comments on the RM (branching from thethread Re: [sc34wg3] The Norwegian National Body position on ISO 13250)

Jan Algermissen sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Tue, 15 Apr 2003 23:33:05 +0200

"Mason, James David (MXM)" wrote:
> Likewise a quick reply:
> I'm a linguist by training. Syntax to me is not just the sorts of things
> that you have at the very concrete level of validating a document against a
> DTD. Syntax (as in Chomsky's "Syntactic Structures") is the fundamental set
> of requirements on expression. The lists of constraints on values in Clause
> 4 of the RM are just as much syntax as that implied by the content models in
> a DTD. The attaching of properties to objects is syntax, though less
> concrete than specifying in what order the attachment must take place. If
> you look at Chomsky's view of language, you find that he's interested in
> such things as a requirement for something like a verb in a sentence, not
> whether the verb comes early (English) or late (German).

Ok, understood.

> The RM had better be about semantics of TMs, or it doesn't have any reason
> to exist. It had better explain what it means to be a subject 

Oh...who can help me here?

> or for a
> subject to be a role player in an assertion.

A huge part of the RM is how a "real-world" relationship is represented
as an assertion. The meaning of role-player-ness is a substantial part
of that. If it is not obvious ebough, it has to be made clear.

> Just as the SAM makes a
> transition from the abstract syntax of the RM to the concrete serilization
> syntax of XTM, so also it provides an interpretation of the high-level
> semantics of generalized roles into concrete things such as roles in
> occurrences. But the fundamental semantics have to be there in the RM or the
> SAM will have to go off on its own, which is what we're trying to avoid.

I think that RM offers what you 'demand'. Possibly a change in the prose
can make it more obvious.

What do others think about this issue?


> While it's true that syntax, at whatever level, affects semantics
> (constrains semantics), it's better to do some expanining along with
> presenting syntax. "A poem should not mean but be" (Ars poetica, Archibald
> Macleish) is fine as an arguing point in literary criticism, but it won't
> satisfy the average reader.
> Jim
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jan Algermissen [mailto:algermissen@acm.org]
> Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 5:01 PM
> To: sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
> Subject: Re: [sc34wg3] Some general comments on the RM (branching from
> the thread Re: [sc34wg3] The Norwegian National Body position on ISO
> 13250)
> Jim,
> thanks for the comments.
> One short reply:
> "Mason, James David (MXM)" wrote:
> > I observed that I felt that the RM was the place for fundemental semantic
> > grounding for TMs.
> The RM provides the ground for defining TMAs (e.g. the SAM). *ALL* semantics
> are defined in TMAs.
> > At this point, the RM is still heavily syntactic. It
> > places a lot of emphasis on properties (Clause 3) and constraints (Clause
> > 4). This material, particularly in Clause 4, is syntactic, though at a
> very
> > abstract level. Perhaps I should say it's structural, but for me the
> listing
> > of properties comes closer to syntax than just structure.
> I don't understand what 'objects' (aka topics/nodes/proxies etc) that have
> properties 'attached' to them have to do with syntax.
> Despite any impression that the prose possibly creates, let me say that:
> The RM has nothing to do with syntax.
> In addition, no TMA has anything to do with syntax.
> Syntax is handled by syntax deserialization specifications (that process
> syntax using the semantics of one or several TMAs).
> JAn
> > That syntactic
> > material is necessary to provide a basis for mapping to the SAM. But it's
> > severly lacking when it comes to defining the semantics of TMs.
> >
> > In short: You need to be standardizing both syntax and semantics; at this
> > point you're neglecting semantics. Syntax/structure should be defined as
> > concisely as possible, preferably through notation or tables rather than
> > prose. Prose should be reserved for things that can't be done in notation,
> > which means semantics.
> >
> > 1. Clause 2, the glossary, should be as brief as possible. Don't try to do
> > normative stuff here; make it just a collecting point for things that need
> > to be defined for clarity or because they come up again and again in the
> > standard. 2.15, "r-topic" is a good candidate to stay in. 2.37 "TMM" has
> no
> > business in the standard. Definitions like 2.10, that simply expand an
> > initialism or acronym, belong somewhere else, either in a list of
> > initialisms or simply folded back into the primary topics.
> >
> > 2. Clauses 3 and 4 are generally OK, so long as they are dealing with
> things
> > that can be dealt with in narrative prose. Reducing the definition of
> > properties to a table, as in 4.2.1 is good. No sense in wasting words on
> > that sort of thing.
> >
> > Section 4.2.2 should be done likewise: almost all the constraints could be
> > handled in a table, perhaps by expanding column 6 of Table 4.2.1. All that
> > should be left of 4.2.2 is the explanatory matter that conveys semantics,
> as
> > opposed to structure constraints. For example, the first sentence of
> > is OK; the rest of should go into the table. There is
> > currently no real text in, except in the notes, so this whole
> > section could be reduced to a row in a table. If the stuff in notes 10 and
> > 11 is normative explanation, it shouldn't be in notes.
> >
> > Figure 1 (note 13) shouldn't be in a note. It should be pulled up into the
> > main text. If the figure is normative, then it can replace a whopping lot
> of
> > inefficient prose.
> >
> > 3. Try to avoid having more than 4 levels of headings.
> >
> > 4. It's fine if we put up an HTML version of this thing with plenty of
> > hyperlinks. Eliot's HtTime is a good model for that. But that stuff can't
> be
> > normative, and it shouldn't be in the printed version. It shouldn't be in
> > the PDF either, unless you can make the hyperlinks work (which they don't
> in
> > the file I pulled down from Sara's site).
> >
> > Jim Mason
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
> > http://www.isotopicmaps.org/mailman/listinfo/sc34wg3
> --
> Jan Algermissen                           http://www.topicmapping.com
> Consultant & Programmer                   http://www.gooseworks.org
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Jan Algermissen                           http://www.topicmapping.com
Consultant & Programmer	                  http://www.gooseworks.org