[tei-council] Disambiguation of <ident> and <idno> (and also <gi>)

Martin Holmes mholmes at uvic.ca
Tue Nov 22 19:16:08 EST 2011

Hi all,

Following the Council meeting in Paris I was tasked with 

"...Assigned to MH to clarify the guidelines on the difference between 
<idno> and <ident>..."

This is how they're currently defined:

"<ident> (identifier) contains an identifier or name for an object of 
some kind in a formal language."

"<idno> (identifier) supplies any form of identifier used to identify 
some object, such as a bibliographic item, a person, a title, an 
organization, etc. in a standardized way."

My initial impulse is to supplement these descriptions with something 
along these lines:

<ident> should be used for tokens such as variable names, class names, 
type names, function names etc. in formal programming languages. (It 
should not be used for element and attribute names in XML, for which the 
special elements <gi> and <att> are provided.)

<idno> should be used for labels which uniquely identify an object or 
concept in a formal cataloguing system such as a database or an RDF 
store, or in a distributed system such as the World Wide Web.

In the Guidelines themselves, we use <ident> (correctly in my view) for 
the names of classes such as att.internetMedia, and the names of modules 
such as "core" and "header". But we also use it for values such as the 


I think these are actually wrong and should be corrected -- see below.

<idno>, on the other hand, is used for lots of URLs (clearly 
legitimate), as well as DOIs and semi-descriptive pointers which are 
presumably resolvably unique -- here's a sample:

Thomason Tract E.537(17)
0 345 6789
978 0 573 01972 2
MS. Add. A. 61
MS Poet. Rawl. D. 169.
RES P- YC- 1275
Y. 1341
Taisho Tripitaka Vol. T08, No. 230

So I have two questions for the group:

1. Do you think that my explanatory text is accurate and helpful enough 
to do the job of disambiguating these two elements?

2. Does our usage of the tags in the Guidelines comply with what we 
believe to be the use-cases of the elements? (Ignoring for the moment 
the case of the questionable uses of <ident> below.)

* I think <ident> is questionable here, and based on the definitions 
above, I think <idno> should be used instead:

     <egXML xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/Examples" 
xml:lang="und"><catRef target="#b.a4 #b.d2" 
Here the same text has been classified as of categories <val>b.a4</val> and
<val>b.d2</val> within the Brown classification scheme (presumed to be
available from <ident 
type="file">http://www.example.com/browncorpus</ident>), and as of category
<q>A45</q> within the SUC classification scheme documented at the URL 

If I'm right, then many other uses of <ident type="file"> might also be 
<idno>, assuming that a filesystem is a "formal cataloguing system", 
which it surely is.

** I think <ident> is wrong here; it should be <val>:

Here the targets of the cross-references are simply page numbers; it
is assumed that corresponding elements with identifiers
<ident>p299</ident>, <ident>p143</ident>, etc. have been provided in
the body of the text, for example as page breaks
<egXML xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/Examples" xml:lang="und">
<pb xml:id="p143"/>
<pb xml:id="p144"/>
<pb xml:id="p263"/>
<pb xml:id="p299"/>
<pb xml:id="p442"/>

Martin Holmes
University of Victoria Humanities Computing and Media Centre
(mholmes at uvic.ca)

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