New Last Call: 'Tags for Identifying Languages' to BCP

John Cowan jcowan at
Tue Dec 14 18:22:05 CET 2004

Vernon Schryver scripsit:

> On the contrary, what the authors of a standard intend is not normative.
> As much as possible, every standard must say what it means, because
> what a standard says *is* its technical content.


> For example, I'm
> unhappy about an apparent sentiment that would put ABNF on a lower
> footing that the English text.  I think I'm like most implementors and
> perhaps unlike non-engineers in reversing that precedence.  Whenever
> I read an RFC, I rely first and foremost on the ABNF.  I use the English
> only for hints, and follow the ABNF instead of the English whenever
> there is a conflict.

Then you would be incapable of implementing any programming language compiler,
or an XML parser, for the specs for these things include literally hundreds
of constraints that are specified only in technical English and not in the
BNF.  As far as the BNF is concerned, this is good sound C:

	main(argv, argc) {
		float Argv;
		int* Argc;

John Cowan  jcowan at
"It's the old, old story.  Droid meets droid.  Droid becomes chameleon. 
Droid loses chameleon, chameleon becomes blob, droid gets blob back
again.  It's a classic tale."  --Kryten, Red Dwarf

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