9.332 text-encoding

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 29 Nov 1995 18:42:07 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 332.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Ian Lancashire <ian@epas.utoronto.ca> (31)
Subject: Re: 9.327 encoding accented characters

Anyone for more about Toronto?

> [Discussion of how the keyboard shorthand "/e" for e with acute
> accent is sometimes understood, sometimes ignored, but most often
> misinterpreted by software ... Russon Wooldridge]
> [The notion that we should systematically misspell words in languages
> which use diacritics -- for the sake of current generations of
> ill-conceived and ill-implemented software! -- is repugnant, and I
> refuse to do it ... Michael Sperberg-McQueen]

As the second most eminent French historical lexicographer
alive today after Bernard Quemada, Russon Wooldridge holds admittedly
challenging views about accents in electronic texts, views that TEIers
may not have heard before. Although my e-texts of Palsgrave's and
Cotgrave's French-English dictionaries record accents, they certainly
"get in the way" during retrieval. Doesn't Wooldridge have a point?

SGMLers remind me of missionaries passionately trying to convert
heathens, in this case scholars whose editorial practices don't follow
ISO standards. What those on a mission may forget is the specific
purposes that these scholars have in mind in making the e-texts.

These purposes -- not any promise to conform to SGML -- get them awarded
research grants. These purposes also drive editorial principles.

As someone who does not write or speak French, either privately or
professionally, I am paying very close attention to guidelines that
come from experts in French. SGML by its very nature imposes
interpretations on texts. If I am going to impose an interpretation on
French character sets, views of people like Russon Wooldridge will
always have to weigh heavily ... as long, that is, as those views do
not get in the way of my specific purposes in doing the research!

Which in turn leads me to speculate that the SGML community may have
quite legitimate research purposes of its own, purposes in which the goals
of the humanities play no major role (and indeed may be partly
repugnant), purposes that deserve as much respect as any humanities endeavour.