From: Jukka K. Korpela <>
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2013 09:17:35 +0300

2013-10-03 7:46, "Martin J. Dürst" wrote:

> On 2013/10/02 9:52, Leo Broukhis wrote:
>> Thanks! That comes out exactly right, although using math markup for
>> linguistic purposes is, IMO, a stretch.
> Why? Surely like in other fields (Math to start with), there somewhere
> is a boundary between plain text and rich text. Of course it's not
> always easy to agree on the exact place of the boundary, but in general,
> most people would agree it's there.

I think most people would even agree that positioning characters as
discussed in this thread is definitely outside the scope of plain text.
Whether we call it rich text, formatting, layout, styling, or something
else is less important here.

But what was referred as “a stretch” is using mathematical markup for
linguistic purposes, which I suppose refers to things like using MathML
to position a letter above another letter to indicate alternate
spellings of a word. This is a completely different issue; we know that
we are outside plain text, discussing the use of rich text, markup, or
whatever you call it, for different purposes.

Simple markup such as superscripting and subscripting (like <sup> and
<sub> in HTML) has often been described in rather visual terms, without
specifying the purpose or meaning of superscripting or subscripting. For
example, in 10<sup>9</sup>, the markup normally relates to the
mathematical concept of exponentiation, and the meaning of the text
would completely change if the markup were removed; whereas in
1<sup>st</sup> or M<sup>lle</sup>, it is stylistic and could be removed
or ignored without affecting meaning (though perhaps making the
rendering typographically unacceptable to some).

But things like MathML were clearly designed for mathematical notations.
This does not imply that you would break the law, or even
specifications, by using it for other purposes. But it does imply that
you should be extra doubly careful. Using markup for purposes other than
its intended use may strike back, since programs may work on the
assumptions about intended use.

For example, if I wanted to express the variation anathematize ~
anathematise in the way discussed here, using markup like XML-based
systems (“languages”), I would consider using <ruby> rather than <sup>
and <sub> or MathML. But most probably I would design markup of my own,
wrapping “s” and “z” in elements and both of those elements in a
container (using <span> markup if working in HTML context), and then use
CSS to make the container an inline box and place the subelements on top
of each other. The main problem would then be how to tune font sizes or
typefaces, box heights, and vertical placement so that this method does
not cause uneven spacing of text lines.

Received on Thu Oct 03 2013 - 01:20:04 CDT

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