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Why choose a paragraph element for a paragraph?

 
 
dorayme
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      03-11-2009
In article <yvGtl.1809$(E-Mail Removed)>,
"Jukka K. Korpela" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> dorayme wrote:
>
> >> Paragraphs were a late development in writing.

> >
> > Is this relevant to the webpage maker facing the *given fact* of a
> > paragraph right now in March 2009?

>
> It is. But do you know what the word "fact" means, for a fact? Consulting a
> good dictionary, or especially a good manual of style might surprise you.
> Specifically, paragraphs aren't facts.
>


Maybe your dictionary is more surprising than mine?

Webpage makers often face the *given fact* of a paragraph or set of
them. Every website maker who has received word docs or PDFs see them
all the time.

Website makers often type out material and divide their sentences into
paragraphs. Or they arrange material they get into same. This is often a
prior act before mark up. They then have the simple job of marking up
those paragraphs.

The expression you seemed to be having difficulty with, the idea of a
given fact, was no more than to take this sort of case and point out
that it happens quite a lot these days.

I do not know what the difficulty is that you are having understanding
my meaning?

> Quite often, people who lack better arguments


Why do I feel you are about to add gratuitous insolence to the above
misunderstanding? There is no need, and I would much rather be getting
on well with folks here. There are quite some issues I am sure I do not
fully understand and I air my views here in some hope of correcting some
of them. Please try your best, I welcome your valuable knowledge.

> call some opinion of theirs a
> fact just because it's not a fact at all and is strongly under dispute (or
> just plain wrong). If you know that something is really a fact, there is no
> need to call it a fact; you just know it, and if you need to tell others
> about it, you just tell it and, if relevant, present the evidence or refer
> to it. "This is a fact" is quite comparable to "This is not spam."
>
> > People started spacing some of their texts into chunks for good
> > reasons.

>
> That's not correct. Spacing is a recent invention.


1. Spacing is a recent invention

is not inconsistent with

2. People started spacing some of their texts into chunks for good
reasons.

But let me suppose you view the reasons they do this as not the best.
Fine, no problem. My point is simply that it is a fact that they do so
and if they did not do this or anything else to give humans a way to see
that paragraphs are paragraphs (like indentation or other things), we
would be back to Harlan's child's essay where the paragraphs are sort of
there but not there and I have said things about this at the time.
>
> Well, a few centuries
> old, but that's recent when compared to thousands of years of written
> language and probably hundreds of thousands of years of human language.
>

All this is not anything I want to dispute.

--
dorayme
 
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Jonathan N. Little
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      03-11-2009
Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
> dorayme wrote:


>> People started spacing some of their texts into chunks for good
>> reasons.

>
> That's not correct. Spacing is a recent invention. Well, a few centuries
> old, but that's recent when compared to thousands of years of written
> language and probably hundreds of thousands of years of human language.


Yes in fact when monks dutifully tried to preserve the ancient knowledge
and created some of the most elaborate calligraphy "filling the space
evenly" was the main goal. So much so, that if they ran out of space at
the end of a line they "hyphened" anywhere in the word and started the
next line!

Funny thing was many scribes were not literate and would make mistakes,
literate supervisors would make inventive corrections... decorations
would cover over odd bits of wrong text. Missing text would written
elsewhere where space would allow and either decoration or even little
figures would be drawn pushing or pulling the wayward text towards its
proper location.

--
Take care,

Jonathan
-------------------
LITTLE WORKS STUDIO
http://www.LittleWorksStudio.com
 
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houghi
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      03-11-2009
Ben C wrote:
> If you're reading out some text you pause for paragraphs, but that's
> different. Reading out something that's written is not like normal
> speaking.


If I hold a monologue, I will use paragraphs in my speaking. However
that is very much like reading out loud.

When speaking with someone, I also will be speaking in paragraphs. Most
of the time the conversation can be devided by me a paragraph, then the
other person, then me again. Paragraphs in speaking tend to be much
shorter then in writing, but they do exist.

houghi
--
This was written under the influence of the following:
| Artist : Jimi Hendrix
| Song : Voodoo Chile
| Album : Astro Man - Live In Stockholm
 
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Harlan Messinger
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      03-11-2009
dorayme wrote:
> In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
> Harlan Messinger <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>> Ben C wrote:
>>> On 2009-03-10, Harlan Messinger <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>>> dorayme wrote:
>>>>> Why should a *practical* website maker choose a paragraph element for a
>>>>> paragraph?
>>>>>
>>>>> As far as I can work out, for no *other* reason than that the P element
>>>>> is associated in browsers with ready made styles that humans can
>>>>> recognise as indicating a paragraph. So it saves bother! Easier than
>>>>> fashioning styles for a DIV.
>>>> That's backwards. If it weren't for the sense that text is decomposable
>>>> into paragraphs, there wouldn't be any motivation to *display* text in
>>>> the form of visibly separate paragraphs.
>>> That doesn't follow at all!
>>>
>>> Paragraphs are groupings of text on a page with some kind of spacing
>>> between them, and people have some kind of a feel for how text should be
>>> organized into them.

>> Paragraphs were a late development in writing.

>
> Is this relevant to the webpage maker facing the *given fact* of a
> paragraph right now in March 2009?


If you understand what's meant by words like "fundamental", "inherent",
and "intrinsic" versus "subjective", "incidental", and "extrinsic",
you'll see that it exactly clarifies the differences between the
fundamental structural nature of a paragraph versus the incidental
presentational practices that one culture or another attaches to it.

>> Do you think people
>> started spacing their text into chunks for no reason, and then started
>> thinking of those chunks as something called paragraphs--and then
>> decided to start using this chunking as a nifty way to structure their
>> text, as long as they were doing it anyway?
>>

> People started spacing some of their texts into chunks for good reasons.


Right, to delimit the conceptual, structural elements that we know today
in English as "paragraphs".

> They did not *then* decide to use this chunking for any further nifty
> thing.


That's what I just said. You don't seem to realize whose point your
supporting here.

> The nifty invention was already invented when chunking was
> invented. When the car was invented, driving it was not a further
> invention.


Not comparable to the situation where the idea that text was composed of
paragraphs had to have been conceived first before it could possibly
occur to anyone--possibly many centuries later--to show visible
delineations between paragraphs.

>> Writers of Thai and Japanese don't visibly separate their words. That
>> doesn't mean they don't conceive of their speech as being divided into
>> words. Conception of the structural divisions may or may not lead to the
>> use of visual cues. The structural divisions are there regardless. The
>> presentation is not the core nature of the divisions.

>
> Not sure of Thai but can't see *quite* in what respects you say this
> about Japanese words (there are many compound *concepts* here). Kanji
> uses Chinese iconic characters and these are separated, and there are
> other additional things to make their writing useful. Anyway, this is
> not a very transparent argument.


It would be for someone who knows about the Thai and Japanese writing
systems. (This isn't a criticism, just an acknowledgement.) Separating
words, separating paragraphs--in both cases, the concepts are
fundamentally structural ones; whether or not they are represented
visually is subjective, arbitrary.

>
> Perhaps how an English essay is marked up simply has to be dealt with by
> translation facilities as best as possible (and vice versa). It does not
> follow that there is some abstract object between languages because one
> piece of work in one language can be translated into another language.


The fact that speakers of both languages can look words up in a
dictionary shows that they share with us the concept of "words".

> It may simply be that quick and efficient tools for some translational
> tasks leave a lot to be desired. What is a chunk of writing in English
> may even need special provisions (and I am talking more than pauses) in
> talking.
>
> If an audience is blind, the "whole thought" that is para in English
> writing may really be better presented *not* as a chunk with pauses
> either end. If you are really serious about making pages accessible to
> blind people, you may need to reorganise quite differently. A paragraph
> is a very visual concept and has some limitations translated into speech
> or other languages.


That's interesting. Do you really think a blind person making a speech
doesn't organize his material in a manner comparable to that of a
sighted person.

>>> That's _all_ there is. That people have some kind of a feel for how to
>>> use paragraphs does not imply there is any such thing as an "abstract
>>> paragraph" somewhere behind the scenes which a "visual paragraph" is
>>> merely a means of displaying.

>> Yes, it does imply that.

>
> Then it faces the difficulties implicit in my last paragraphs. Much much
> more transparent is to simply take the paragraph as a given. It is a
> pattern and it is known to huge numbers of humans, there are often
> awkward ways to make other patterns do the same kind of communicative
> job for other languages and modalities (sight/sound/braille).
>
> It is patterns all the way up and all the way down.


This is all beside the point anyway--the question originally at hand was
whether there is an *inherent* presentation for paragraphs. There is
not, and if you thought there were, I think you would have answered my
question about which of the two traditional English methods of
delineating them was "the" inherent one.
 
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Harlan Messinger
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      03-11-2009
Ben C wrote:
> On 2009-03-11, dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> [...]
>> about Japanese words (there are many compound *concepts* here). Kanji
>> uses Chinese iconic characters and these are separated, and there are
>> other additional things to make their writing useful. Anyway, this is
>> not a very transparent argument.

>
> They're not separated. In Japanese you usually think of a word as
> consisting of one or more Kanji plus sometimes a few of the phonetic
> characters (e.g. to bolt on some grammatical endings). But there are no
> spaces written between anything, except after full stops and commas.
>
> Not completely sure of the history, but I get the impression that Kanji
> were sort of retrofitted to Japanese much later than they had been
> around in Chinese. It's generally fairly obvious where you would put the
> spaces if you wanted to put them in, but I don't think that's true of
> Chinese at all.


It's true that the question of "what is a word" in Chinese doesn't have
a simple answer, and their term "ci2" (詞) doesn't map exactly to
"word", but nevertheless it means they have an analogous concept, and
yet they don't use a visual cue to demarcate the "ci2"s in their writing.
>
> [...]
>> If an audience is blind, the "whole thought" that is para in English
>> writing may really be better presented *not* as a chunk with pauses
>> either end. If you are really serious about making pages accessible to
>> blind people, you may need to reorganise quite differently. A
>> paragraph is a very visual concept and has some limitations translated
>> into speech or other languages.

>
> I agree. I wouldn't say paragraphs existed in speech.


The fact that anyone, in any language, has thought to demarcate in
writing means they already existed conceptually. If people don't
demarcate them in speech, that doesn't change their already established
existence as concepts.

And often people do mark off paragraphs in speech, though not formally
or deliberately. "Oh, by the way ...." "Anyway, ...." "In conclusion, ...."
>
> If you're reading out some text you pause for paragraphs, but that's
> different. Reading out something that's written is not like normal
> speaking.

 
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David Segall
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      03-11-2009
dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
> David Segall <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>> dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>> >Why should a *practical* website maker choose a paragraph element for a
>> >paragraph?
>> >
>> >As far as I can work out, for no *other* reason than that the P element
>> >is associated in browsers with ready made styles that humans can
>> >recognise as indicating a paragraph. So it saves bother!

>>
>> Saving bother is a side effect.

>
>Some side effect! It is a massive one imo and I did not mean it to sound
>trivial.
>
>When I mark up a paragraph in a paragraph element, I am thinking, this
>is a paragraph, I will mark it up so because I trust that browsers of
>every kind know what to do when they see the tags and they will make
>sure that the audience will know it is a paragraph.
>
>I am in this way relieved of a massive amount of work. Massive! I do not
>need to study all the devices that are around, try to cater for devices
>that will be invented etc. I trust that these tags are the signal for
>*all* competent devices because their makers know what a paragraph is
>and build in the necessary presentational mechanisms for it to be
>received by an audience for what it is, a paragraph.


Exactly! You should mark up a paragraph as a paragraph because, deep
down, it _is_ a paragraph and not because the P element is associated
with some ready made styles as you said in your original post.
>
>It seems I should be thinking fancier things according to what you and
>Harlan are telling me. I am not in some stationary position and welcome
>your thoughts a lot and continue to think about them.


I think that this page
<http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/web/library/wa-ajaxintro4/> is a
lucid explanation of how a document is interpreted by a web browser.
However, my background is computer programming rather than web page
design so I would be interested in hearing if it is of any use to you.
 
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dorayme
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      03-12-2009
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
Ben C <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> On 2009-03-11, dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:


> [...]
> > If an audience is blind, the "whole thought" that is para in English
> > writing may really be better presented *not* as a chunk with pauses
> > either end. If you are really serious about making pages accessible to
> > blind people, you may need to reorganise quite differently. A
> > paragraph is a very visual concept and has some limitations translated
> > into speech or other languages.

>
> I agree. I wouldn't say paragraphs existed in speech.
>
> If you're reading out some text you pause for paragraphs, but that's
> different. Reading out something that's written is not like normal
> speaking.


Because there are relatively few literate blind people compared to
literate sighted people, they have generally had to adapt to the sighted
world's ways. These ways are adaptive ways rather than really
specialised ways in their favour. It's a tough business for them.

If you were to really, and I mean, really do justice to them in your
mark up, you would not "just mark up". Let me be plain: you would drop
the fantasy world of those who seem to think content is some sort of
prior act of understanding independent of presentation. You would
refashion the content in the plain English meaning of these words. No
need to look up dictionaries.

If I knew that a huge chunk of my audience was blind, and I really
wanted to cater for them as a priority, I would have *refashioned*, for
example, my article on prohibition. No, not merely restyled it and no,
not marked it up different. I would have used different words and
different sentences and different chunks in different orders. Different
content! There is no *one thing* I *really meant* in some sort of
logical heaven waiting to be presented in myriad ways for the whole of
humanity on different devices. It's a fantasy to think otherwise.

I would have constantly summarised more bits of it along the way. I
would *not* have chunked the bits in quite the same way. There would be
different bits even! There is no abstract ghostly fantasy structural
content to the article that will do for everyone.

I would have had in mind, primarily, different patterns, different
presentational ideas at the heart of the message I was wanting to
communicate and not as easily separated from them as say the absolutely
loudness (cf. font-size: 100% which is a presentational aspect they
can control. I would put in absolutely crucial intrinsic styles like
pauses but quite the relative length of them is a choice of the user (if
they could have such fine control) or I might set it - in the knowledge
that CSS could be "off" - if I had reliable cross browser support for
CSS facilities for certain time periods.

--
dorayme
 
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dorayme
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      03-12-2009
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
houghi <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
> When speaking with someone, I also will be speaking in paragraphs. Most
> of the time the conversation can be devided by me a paragraph, then the
> other person, then me again. Paragraphs in speaking tend to be much
> shorter then in writing, but they do exist.


Record some normal casual street conversations and good luck in typing
the transcript to reflect the *real paragraphs* in there that you are so
confident people speak in.

--
dorayme
 
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asdf
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      03-12-2009

"dorayme" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
> Ben C <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>> On 2009-03-11, dorayme <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>
>> [...]
>> > If an audience is blind, the "whole thought" that is para in English
>> > writing may really be better presented *not* as a chunk with pauses
>> > either end. If you are really serious about making pages accessible to
>> > blind people, you may need to reorganise quite differently. A
>> > paragraph is a very visual concept and has some limitations translated
>> > into speech or other languages.

>>
>> I agree. I wouldn't say paragraphs existed in speech.
>>
>> If you're reading out some text you pause for paragraphs, but that's
>> different. Reading out something that's written is not like normal
>> speaking.

>
> Because there are relatively few literate blind people compared to
> literate sighted people, they have generally had to adapt to the sighted
> world's ways. These ways are adaptive ways rather than really
> specialised ways in their favour. It's a tough business for them.
>
> If you were to really, and I mean, really do justice to them in your
> mark up, you would not "just mark up". Let me be plain: you would drop
> the fantasy world of those who seem to think content is some sort of
> prior act of understanding independent of presentation. You would
> refashion the content in the plain English meaning of these words. No
> need to look up dictionaries.
>
> If I knew that a huge chunk of my audience was blind, and I really
> wanted to cater for them as a priority, I would have *refashioned*, for
> example, my article on prohibition. No, not merely restyled it and no,
> not marked it up different. I would have used different words and
> different sentences and different chunks in different orders. Different
> content! There is no *one thing* I *really meant* in some sort of
> logical heaven waiting to be presented in myriad ways for the whole of
> humanity on different devices. It's a fantasy to think otherwise.
>


Ah, but you don't know that a significant proportion of your audience is NOT
blind or sight impaired. To assume otherwise is discriminatory.

And actually, it's the LAW (No... YOU look it up). You MUST NOT discriminate
between sighted and non-sighted viewers, unless you can show that the
process of NOT providing accessible web content is not possible, or
represents an insurmountable technical challenge. The number of cases that
fall into the latter clause is negligible. Nearly all web content can be
arranged to be accessible, WITHOUT sacrificing visual presentation or
layout.

Different words and sentences? Pullleeeaase... Partial sightedness or
blindness is not a cognitive problem. Partially sighted or blind people have
no more difficulty that you or I in comprehending linear text. I have
studied, worked and socialised with some VERY sight impaired people in my
time, and some (if not most) of them are very, very good, if not better than
I, at comprehending and engaging with linear text.

Perpetuating this MYTH that blind people are somehow cognitively impaired,
so that content needs to be 'special' for them is not helpful.

This is why (to repeat for the umpteenth time), and it's only ONE reason,
that HTML can and SHOULD abstract the presentation or layout and be
controlled at the browser level. If you do this right, you can easily
restyle your content for any number of devices or disabilities at your whim,
*without* altering the content itself.

[snip repetition of arguments]
>
> --
> dorayme



 
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asdf
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      03-12-2009

"dorayme" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
> houghi <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>> When speaking with someone, I also will be speaking in paragraphs. Most
>> of the time the conversation can be devided by me a paragraph, then the
>> other person, then me again. Paragraphs in speaking tend to be much
>> shorter then in writing, but they do exist.

>
> Record some normal casual street conversations and good luck in typing
> the transcript to reflect the *real paragraphs* in there that you are so
> confident people speak in.
>


Some years ago, I was involved in a project that involved transcribing the
'casual' spoken word. I do not recall any difficulty in presenting speech in
clear, legible paragraphs.

> --
> dorayme



 
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