9.311 vagueness & the TEI

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 22 Nov 1995 23:42:05 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 311.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" (43)
Subject: Re: 9.297 vagueness in lexicons; none in ideal

On Wed, 15 Nov 1995 18:34:12 -0500 (EST) Paul Schaffner said
(Hum. 9.297):

>(2) Compounds and phrases are cited without morphological tagging.
>"Domes dai" is cited as such (at least I suppose so; I haven't looked),
>but does this mean "dooms day" or "doom's day" or "dooms' day"? In many
>cases, the answer is not obvious, and was probably not obvious even to
>the original ME speaker. Yet TEI would like us to supply it....

This is a surprise to me, and I can't find anything in my copy of the
Guidelines that suggests that the TEI has any opinion on the matter, let
alone what that opinion is. Certainly I don't see any suggestion that
morphological analyses should be supplied for citations of words and
phrases, or even for headwords, in cases where the dictionary being
encoded doesn't provide the information.

Does your copy say something different? Or are you reasoning this way?

The TEI provides tags for morphological information.
Therefore, the TEI requires / recommends / prefers that all
electronic dictionaries tag all headwords and citations of
words and phrases morphologically, even in cases where the
source edition provides no such tagging.

Such an inference is neither valid nor sound, especially in the case of
the TEI, which is if anything rather repetitive in its insistence that
virtually all of its tags are optional, not recommended, and still less

It is really not fair to those Humanist readers who have not read the
Guidelines, to give them such fundamentally false ideas about what is in
them. If Mr. Schaffner intended the remark I quote as a jocular one, I
apologize for taking umbrage, but the humor did not come across to me.
If he intended it seriously, I prescribe a careful reading of (a) the
relevant chapter of the Guidelines, and (b) of section 1.1.2 "Notational

Anyone concerned with the problems of vagueness and uncertainty in
markup may also wish to consult chapter 17, on 'Certainty and
Responsibility'. Those who believe that naming the nature of an
uncertainty or vagueness is already misleading, because too precise,
will of course be dissatisfied with this chapter. But it is, at least,
capable of expressing the kind of uncertainty described in Mr.
Schaffner's note regarding the analysis of 'domes dai.'


-C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
ACH / ACL / ALLC Text Encoding Initiative
University of Illinois at Chicago
u35395@uicvm.uic.edu / u35395@uicvm

"Clarity, Precision and Ease of use does not mean Confinement, Verbosity
and Futility." -Jean Pierre Gaspart