The proposed standard has generated considerable comment and
controversy from a number of quarters. Current comments have come
from the perspective of generators of terminological databases
(TDBs), e.g., the Localization Industry Standards Association
(LISA), from the Natural Language Processing (NLP) community,
and from people who are already using the standard as a basis
for developing a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) model for distributed
terminology networks on the World Wide Web (~ (West and Murray-Rust
1996). There is also serious discussion within the MARTIF work
group itself concerning differing fundamental philosophies with
respect to interchange, specifically regarding so-called "blind"
interchange (see Section 6).
In a recent articles in The ELRA Newsletter (reprinted
in this issue of TermNet News, pp. 1-3), which he specifically
identifies as "designed to stimulate debate", Robin
Where machine-processable terminology is required, past efforts
at achieving a common standard have not been particularly successful.
The MARTIF standard (ISO DIS 12200) goes some way towards achieving
this goal, but it appears to have become somewhat bogged-down
in increasingly intricate detail. There seems little point in
spending years developing an ISO standard (a process which in
itself is hardly market-oriented) unless it gains widespread
acceptance in an industry, and MARTIF will certainly require
re-engineering before it reaches this stage. What could happen
is that one industry leader will adopt a particular set of protocols
and the test will follow suit. Again, time-to-market will be
the driver. (Bonthrone 1996)
The authors have hastened to take up the debate because these
comments deserve serious attention. They touch on several aspects
of the MARTIF discussion and are not Bonthrone's alone. First
it is important to note that the standard is already being used
successfully in industry in a variety of environments. Nevertheless,
existing critical responses can be classified in three basic categories.
- Some evaluators have observed that the standard is too
complicated. Indeed, it is more complicated than its designers
originally anticipated that it would be and than most people
would like it to be. The question arises in this context, however:
for whom is the standard too complicated? Who will be responsible
for dealing with these complications? Section 3 below explains
why the complexity of MARTIF provides powerful tools for dealing
with critical terminological features, and Section 6 proposes
solutions for shifting the burden of complexity away from the
end-user by hiding it behind user-friendly interfaces.
- Some critics have been concerned that the standard is not
strict enough. They have urged the adoption of a single
standard term entry model in order to facilitate so-called "blind"
interchange among partners who do-not have to examine foreign
data' before importing it into their own systems. Section 4
outlines proposals designed to address these issues.
- Others find the standard inadequate because it is not powerful
enough, i.e., it does not accommodate word or "lemma"-oriented
lexicographical data or mixed systems of terminological and
lexicographical data as discussed in Section 5.