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Refining our Notion of What Text Really Is: The Problem of Overlapping Hierarchies

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Title: Refining our Notion of What Text Really Is: The Problem of Overlapping Hierarchies
Author(s): Renear, Allen H.; Mylonas, Elli; Durand, David
Subject(s): text ontologies digital humanities markup sgml xml documents
Abstract: We examine the claim that "text is an ordered hierarchy of content objects"; this thesis was affirmed by the authors, and others, in the late 1980s and has been associated with certain approaches to text processing and the encoding of literary texts. First we discuss the nature of this claim and its connection with the history of text processing and text encoding standardization projects such as SGML and the Text Encoding Initiative. We then describe how the experience of the text encoding community, as represented and codified in the TEI Guidelines, has raised difficulties for this thesis. Next we consider two progressively weaker versions of this thesis formulated in response to these difficulties. Ultimately we find that no version appears to be free from counterexample. Although none of these formulations proves to be theoretically sound, they are nonetheless methodologically illuminating as each generalizes actual encoding practices, making explicit certain assumptions that, even though they have been fundamental to the working methodologies of most text encoding projects, have never been explicitly articulated, let alone explained or defended. The counterexamples to the different versions of the OHCO thesis also arise in actual encoding projects -- so although our focus is theoretical it is grounded in the methodology and problems of contemporary encoding practices. The problems discussed here have implications not only for text encoding and our understanding of the nature of textual commmethodology of the humanities.
Issue Date: 1993
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Citation Info: Research in Humanities Computer, N. Ide and S. Hockey (eds.), 1996.
Genre: Article
Type: Text
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/9407
Publication Status: published or submitted for publication
Peer Reviewed: is peer reviewed
Rights Information: (post print)
Date Available in IDEALS: 2008-12-14
 

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