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Subject: AW: meta-languages
From: "Rutz, Laurent" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:General discussion of Extensible Markup Language <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 29 Mar 1999 12:12:33 +0200
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> 2. Is the term 'meta-language' helpful? I've heard this term bandied about
> quite a lot over the past few years but don't find it very helpful for
> helping beginners understand markup. For clarification, a meta-language,
> in
> my understanding, is a language used to write other languages (HTML as an
> application of SGML rules) through general rule sets. That sort of
> definition shrinks SGML and XML down to DTD languages. We all know that
> SGML
> and XML are both the expression of structure and its resolution as
> document
> instances. I look at DTD syntax as being a markup language of its own, to
> markup or express structure. These definitions are then resolved to markup
> or describe content. The DTD language might be considered a metalanguage
> but
> not SGML or XML as a whole. Does this idea make sense?
>
        > In fact, the term 'meta' has been used too much recently. Some
people even say there is something like meta of meta. When I began working
on XML I was indeed confused with such expressions. I haven't had enough
time to work on it but one way to find out what meta is would probably be to
think about languages in general. What is a language? What is common between
English, HTML, calculus? Also, there is the concept of notation. Basically a
DTD is a certain notation of rules which you could as well be expressed in
English (what would be much more difficult). Maybe linguists could help on
this issue. To get back to meta meta: I think there are always multiple
levels of information like object - class - class model or document instance
- DTD - XML and to describe such relationships you don't even need the term
meta. Inheritance, subset or whatever does it. Meta seems to be a word
people use when they don't know exactly what these relationships are. But it
sounds good.

        Laurent

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