Allen Renear, Elli Mylonas, David Durand, Refining our Notion of What Text Really Is: The Problem of Overlapping Hierarchies

A revision of the OHCO model as outlined in coombs1987markup and particularly in derose1990what. Abstract from http://cds.library.brown.edu/resources/stg/monographs/ohco.html\#derose: 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 communication, but raise very fundamental issues in the logic and methodology of the humanities.

Paolo Monella Curriculum
DH bibliography
Paolo Monella home page