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Subject: Re: [dita] proposal on "vocabulary" terminology

How about "vocabulary" or "document vocabulary"?

You can integrate modules for different information types and domains into a single document vocabulary (document type or schema) using a vocabulary shell (a DTD or schema shell file that points to the module files and indicates how they are to be integrated).

I would use "document type" since it is literally accurate, but I'm told that usage is specific to DTDs and would not be appropriate for documents based on schemas.

Michael Priestley
Dept PRG IBM Canada  phone: 416-915-8262
Toronto Information Development

"W. Eliot Kimber" <ekimber@innodata-isogen.com>

09/29/2004 09:52 AM

        To:        OASIS DITA TC <dita@lists.oasis-open.org>
        Subject:        Re: [dita] proposal on "vocabulary" terminology


Erik Hennum wrote:

> To resolve these concerns, Michael and I would like to propose the
> following enhancements to the formal DITA terminology:
> *  Where the formal terminoloy currently uses "vocabulary" instead use
> "vocabulary shell"

New proposal to replace "vocabulary shell": "encompassing vocabulary".

Justification and discussion:

In the con call on Tuesday, I raised an issue with the term "shell" in
this context.

My primary concern is that going forward we, as users and practioners
creating DITA-based applications (that is, use-specific XML applications
that either specialize the DITA-defined modules or use the DITA
architecture mechanism to specialize from some other base), need a way
to talk clearly about both modules from which one specialize, as well as
the fully-realized XML document types created by combining modules and
specializing from them. Currently we have no good term for this,
certainly not one that is clearly distinguished from a particular
syntactic expression of the document type.

That is, it's easy to talk about a "shell DTD", which is a set of DTD
declarations that syntactically pull together a set of DTD modules to
form a single *syntactic* document type declaration. It's quite another
to talk about the abstract thing that the syntactic DTD is an
implementation expression of.

In my normal practice I use "DTD" or "declaration set" to refer to the
syntactic DTD declarations and "document type" to refer to the
abstraction. But in this context "document type" is both too generic and
too overloaded to be reliably understood in this precise way.

Thus my concern that we get this terminology correct. Note that in this
discussion I have essentially zero concern for existing DITA users and
the terminology they currently use--they are sophisticated and their
numbers are small. My concern is entirely for future users of DITA.

My reasoning is thus:

1. The thing being described is the (conceptually) *abstract* set of
element types formed by combining one or more architectural modules to
form an "encompassing" document type. [The term "encompassing documen
type" is taken from it's use in the HyTime standard, where we defined it
to mean a document type that is intended to account for all the element
types to be used in a given document instance, as opposed to a document
type that is intended to account for a subset of the types that would be
used in a document. In the DITA context, the "concept" document type is
encompassing, the "concept" module is not.]

2. The word shell was originally used to describe a *syntactic*
construct, the actual .dtd file used to pull together the relevant

3. The thing being described is distinct from any of its possible
syntactic expressions, which could include DTD declarations, WSD
schemas, etc.

4. Therefore, "shell vocabulary" could be taken to imply a syntactic
construct when it is not intended in that way.

5. We need a clear term by which we can talk about the set of types
distinct from any syntactic definition of them. For example, the
DITA-defined "concept" document type is an instance of what Erik has
proposed calling a "vocabulary shell".

I proposed "concrete vocabulary" as a possible alternative for
"vocabulary shell" but I'm not particularly happy with that.

I chose the word "concrete" to emphasize that the set of types is
intended for use with document instances, rather than being intended
only as a base for specialization.

However, it is a fact that any concrete set of types could also be
specialized, so there is potential for confusion with concrete/abstract
in this context, which is entirely a function of use and context, and
concrete/abstract in the context of object-oriented programming, where
classes can be declared as "abstract", meaning that they can only be
used for specialization, they cannot be used for class instances.

Terms like "module collection" or "module set", while accurate, are not
particulary descriptive.



W. Eliot Kimber
Professional Services
Innodata Isogen
9390 Research Blvd, #410
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 372-8122


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