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Re: improving DevRef 6.2.2

Justin B Rye <jbr@edlug.org.uk> writes:

> And whatever we call the constituent consisting of an NP minus Det,
> that syntactic unit doesn't even precisely match what we're trying
> to prescribe[+ICY-]

> The nearest thing to a cover-term is "nominal" (anything noun-y,
> including N, N+Ark-, N+Aro- or NP); but vagueness doesn't get us anywhere,
> because it's only the full NP that's ever in the syntactic
> relationship of apposition with anything.
> What we _could_ say is that they're appositive noun phrases EXCEPT
> THAT they drop leading articles.

Okay. If there's no simple term to unambiguously mark what we're
describing, it's probably best to define what is meant in the
document, without any non-standard linguistic terminology.

> Ben Finney wrote:
> > Yes, this has been my main motivation in asking people to follow Dev
> > Ref +AKc-6.2.2. Nothing to do with superior language, but rather for
> > standardising the format to facilitate more reliable and flexible use
> > of synopses (as is the goal with most standardisation effort).
> And this is why I didn't want to go blundering into debian-mentors
> shouting "it's not an appositive clause!" - the advice I see being
> given is good, it's only the rationale that's problematic.

Jut as a point of interest, and possibly to play devil's advocate:
*why* do we want the synopsis to not begin with an article ("a, an,
the" etc.)? I have an impression that it's better, but I'd like to
know if you can articulate why. In re-proposing this advice for the
developer's reference, we're likely to meet with this question, so it
would be good to have an explanation ready.

> On the other hand it might help if the DevRef section went into it
> as far as the difference between Noun Phrases and Verb Phrases,
> since VP ("does something useful") is the other kind of phrase
> people most often try to use.

Right. That, at least, is easily countered by invoking the
"standardisation" banner: We're proposing that all synopses be useable
within a hypothetical standard template of "The package <packagename>
is <synopsis>", and a verb phrase doesn't fit.

> >     The package "$NAME" provides {a,an,the,some} $SYNOPSIS.
> (I'm still a bit unsure about including "some", though it does help
> accommodate plural NPs.)

The existing phrasing in +AKc-6.2.2 gives alternation for the copula:
"{is, are}", presumably to allow for a synopsis in the plural. So the
options so far presented still lead to awkwardness. Given another
example package:

    Package: eg-utils
    Description: utility programs for exemplification

the options for a full sentence from this synopsis so far are:

    "The package eg-utils is some utility programs for exemplification."

    "The package eg-utils are the utility programs for exemplification."

Though 'eg-utils' is named as a plural, I think it's still more
correct to speak of it as singular: we're describing the function of
this one *package* in Debian, not its constituent parts.

Perhaps, then, it's better to promote this with singular copula and
definite article:

    "The package eg-utils is the utility programs for exemplification."

Still not entirely fluent, but perhaps most easily understood by
non-native English readers.

> By the way, when I say "$FOO", it's possible I should just be using
> the "<replaceable>foo</replaceable>" docbook markup in the current
> DevRef.

In the proposed patch, yes. In discussions here, it would probably not
help clarity to use that markup.

> Oh, and single quotes, I missed that.

Perferably just as the Unicode characters themselves (+IBggGQ-) in the
document, rather than any fancy entity tricks to get them. (And
definitely not apostrophes!)

> > This might be clearer if two illustrations were given for comparison:
> > 
> >     Package: eg-tools
> >     Description: simple exemplification system (utilities)
> >      +ICY-
> > 
> >     Package: eg-doc
> >     Description: simple exemplification system (documentation)
> >      +ICY-
> Absolutely.
> Oh, by the way - parentheses or dashes?  I tend to like "($ROLE)",
> but I think d-l-e has recommended "- $ROLE" in the past, and we
> probably don't want to imply we're deprecating either.

I think the de facto standard is the hyphen (as a stand-in for the en
dash +IBM-), but I believe the grammatical contortions are less
cumbersome if parentheses are used. Compare:

    "The package eg-tools is the simple exemplification system (utilities)."

    "The package eg-tools is the simple exemplification system +IBM- utilities."

Perhaps a quick straw poll of the existing package synopses is
appropriate, to see what the current majority practice is.

 +AFw-     +IBw-Unix is an operating system, OS/2 is half an operating system, |
  `+AFw-    Windows is a shell, and DOS is a boot partition virus.+IB0- +IBQ-Peter |
_o__)                                                        H. Coffin |
Ben Finney

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