How to cite this paper
Freestyle Markup Language
Specification of an intuitive, powerful, polyhierarchical new extensible markup language
Balisage: The Markup Conference 2010
August 3 - 6, 2010
Nowadays, the Extensible Markup Language (XML) is broadly accepted as a standardized serialization format and universal transfer
syntax. According to the well-formedness constraints ("properly nested"), XML allows the markup of content only in strict monohierarchical structures – markup
in non-hierarchical or multi-hierarchical structures is not inherently provided in
the language: This deficit is sufficiently discussed in the literature and represents
a problem for many application scenarios.
Unfortunately there is a large gap between the XML tree model and the models traditionally used in software engineering[...] Markup-based
models revolve around order and hierarchy whereas the more popular graph-based data
models revolve around linking relationships and roles. A linked data structure (directed
graph) can more directly express sophisticated information than can a simple tree.
Moreover, further restrictions exist that complicate an unlimited use of XML
in practice and prohibit an intuitive freestyle
markup. Markup languages are not only used in the typographic field as originally
intended. Mostly and increasingly markup applies to data structures in general. This
fact confirms the necessity to further develop present markup standards, just as the
data structures have evolved [Ernst 2009
] starting from lists via table relations and trees to graphs.
The descriptive markup language, FML, provides an unrestricted freestyle markup that addresses problems and deficiencies with monohierarchical structure constraints.
The term "freestyle" has been chosen to reflect the languages requirement to allow an intuitive-freehand
According to the language taxonomy from Coombs 1987, FML is a generalized descriptive markup language. It is not restricted to any particular
application scenario; it is a metalanguage, like SGML/XML, but more powerful since it supports more structuring features.
[...] it is time to determine what additional features are required from markup systems
to make the formal description of such non-hierarchical phenomena straightforward.
As a preparation 17 requirements for the project FML have been carefully identified and evaluated. The development of the new data-centric
markup language demands the consideration of the following distinctive aspects:
For the syntax of the language a precise system of rules has to be defined. Only a
clear grammar allows an automatic analysis of language instances. Each FML-document has to be syntactically constructed by deduction sequences and recognized
as being wellformed by an automaton. In comparison with to the 107 production rules of XML we have to make the notation rules of FML clearer and more understandable, according to the following statement:
By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate
on more advanced problems, and in effect increases the mental power of the race.
For the benefit of the requirements entropy, ergonomics and only restricted necessary XML-compatibility many obsolete SGML-constructs, redundancies and practical irrelevant relicts may be segregated. FML has to concentrate on the essential: polyhierarchical markup of texts and data.
For FML-documents a Chomsky-type-2-grammar consisting of a minimal set of production rules
has to be provided in EBNF notation. Thus FML may be produced by a context-free grammar and recognized by a nondeterministic pushdown
Nowadays XML is the lingua franca of the Internet and EDI-systems and probably the most common
serialization format and transfer syntax.
What started out as a simple standard for electronic publishing has matured into one
of the most important and widely used paradigms in distributed computing. The impact
and influence of the standard and the conceptual base are visible in every area of
This fact deserves special attention. First of all FML syntactically will not be compatible with XML since it introduces new concepts and structures that XML could not prepare. Additionally critical constructs like CDATA Sections [Walsh 2003] and non-transferrable concepts like DTD will be excluded. Past studies often attach great importance to compatibility. This
leads occasionally to quite complicated results and crude workarounds. FML defies all concerns regarding strict compatibility. That approach of course has advantages
and disadvantages. Moreover FML will adopt as many accepted and well-proven XML-syntaxes and interpretations as possible without interfering other
requirements. Thus an FML-document might be a wellformed
XML-document but does not have to be. Anyway, there will be a high recognition factor.
For supporting the compatibility issue two further steps are taken: Developing migration-guidelines
XML→FML and setting up a XML representation of FML (milestone approach) (see section “XML Representation”).
SGML-compatibility and the established OHCO-view
[...] we can describe a text as an "ordered hierarchy of content objects"
lead to an inseparable bond of markup and monohierarchical structures. Generally FML follows the appraisal
[...]we now know that the breaking of strict hierarchies is the rule, rather than
but still has to pay tribute to the broadly accepted monohierarchical understanding:
FML needs a nested property for deciding structural compliance. Furthermore monohierarchies shall be
marked up exactly the same way as in XML.
Examinations about complex relations far beyond monohierarchies are coltishly made
in an experimental novel (with more information in footnote-annotations than in the
These pieces won’t halt: the boundary of a book is less than air to them. These pieces
wink at each other, they shnoogle sighingly, they meet to confer, they part, they
wave adieu and zip toward different mental planet zones, they reproduce, they tease
us with coherence, they grimace and coil about and finagle, they repeat one another,
they flaunt, they taunt, they sail away. Maybe only a deity – if deities exist – explains
(or is) these splinters’ unity.
Texts (and data in general as well) may not be interpreted as a hierarchy of content-components,
as Schmidt 2009 concludes:
Indeed, it is now generally recognised that literary and linguistic texts frequently
or even predominantly exhibit overlapping structures.
The challenge of interference structures (crossover-markup, concurring-markup, overlapping-markup)
and XML´s inability to represent them natively
have been intensely discussed for many years [SperbergMcQueen 2007] [Witt 2002] [Renear 1993].
Markup under any SGML/XML convention is unable to easily represent arbitrary structures or to represent overlapping
or concurrent structures.
FML is requested to handle this issue naturally and without applying any cumbersome workarounds
like milestone, stand-off, fragmentation, virtual joins, or redundant encoding.
If the content of a sample document is the symbol-sequence
and gets augmented with the two typographic properties italic and blue
we will get the following document structure:
FML must encode this simple issue not fragmented (as it would be done in HTML)
but native and intuitive:
Start- and end-tags enclose the elements content. In XML corresponding start- and end-tags get identified by an equal tag-name. If more than
one tag-pair with the same tag-name is involved, then identifying correspondence is
ambiguous when allowing interference.
To illustrate the dilemma lets draw another typographic example and introduce the
tag u with its semantic underline. The markup scenario
might be interpreted either as V1 or V2:
If a document contains n start-tags Ts with the same tag-name (and n end-tags Te with that tag-name), then the possible document interpretation I ranges between 1 and n! = |Ts|! = | Te|!. Thus, self-overlapping-markup is a special case of interference and may not be clearly interpreted without introducing a new concept:
FML must provide an mechanism (similar to the co-indexing scheme introduced in Huitfeldt 2001) for assigning an unique ID to a tag-pair. With ID´s, one start-tag gets unambiguously
joined to a corresponding end-tag with the same name. Each assignment of an unique
ID to a tag-pair decrements I. Tag-ID´s shall be optional. Due to compatibility, the Matrjoschka-doll-principle applies where the ID-mechanism is not in use.
The principle of pluralism also applies to markup structures. In FML parallel markup must be possible. Parent-child-relationships between tags do not
have to be enforced where there is no hierarchical relation.
Lets mark up content with the typographic properties bold (tag-name: b), italic (tag-name: i) and red (tag-name: r):
Without using any workaround constructs XML may mark up this structure inherently only by one of the two alternatives
But that is an overspecification. Neither is b a child of i nor is b parent of i.The content is just b AND i. If an author would insert text between </i> and </b> then content would be produced that is b but not i. Insertion between </b> and <r> would produce detached content without any typographic properties. This lack of
representing congruent markup may lead to inconsistencies during document maintenance.
Also the original congruent structure may not be reconstructed from the markup representation.
Therefore FML has to provide a native tagging-mechanism for the treatment of congruent semantics
and secure document maintenance.
Heterogeneous structures have to be marked up in one redundant-free document. One
semantic interpretation may exist besides other ones in the same document. Implied
interference does not have to be subject to any restrictive structure constraints. Each markup-component
in an FML document is non-ambiguously assigned to exactly one perspective (respectively default-perspective).
During the transformation of an FML document to an FML graph particular perspectives may be optionally included or excluded. For an FML graph an unlimited number of perspective-nodes - sharing the same document content-nodes
- will directly follow the document-root-node.
This important topic has been discussed for a long time [Stuehrenberg 2006] [Witt 2007] and there are plenty of scenarios that would benefit from markup ability to handle
independent structures. For instance, the American National Corpus would not have to redundantly administrate their linguistic inventory seven times
stand-off [Ide 2006]. They could administrate, search, edit, and analyze securely in one consolidated
FML-elements may be composed via distributed ordered segments. By this means, the linear
sequential ordering of content-symbols will be totally broken up. This is a rather
terrific feature that takes advantage of the reusability-paradigm and facilitates
arbitrary creations within a profane content.
A new element may use content symbols from any position and in any order. For this
purpose, segment-ID´s and order-ID´s have to be allocated to participating segment-tags.
For instance this feature would allow to compose all words of the German language
(120.000) in one redundant-free document having only the german alphabet as its content:
Under the term Discontinuous Structures a comparable approach has been discussed in SperbergMcQueen 2008.
Each fragment of a wellformed
FML-document must as well be a wellformed document. The cut-off points may be anywhere in the content and outside of embedded
markup-components. One implication of that will be, that tag-pairs might break apart.
Therefore, a mechanism of completion has to apply during transformation. The location of missing start- or end-tags can be assumed to be before or after
the document borders.
In the document prolog a document may optionally be declared as being a fragment.
This way external processors get supported in identifying and composing distributed
document-fragments. XInclude confirms the usefulness of this concept, that prepares further modularization and
Many programming languages provide an inclusion mechanism to facilitate modularity.
Markup languages also often have need of such a mechanism.
Sometimes semantic objects, structural interruptions or relevant positions can be
identified in a text- or data-sequence before adequate markup-tags are known for sure.
FML shall offer a solution for those scenarios: A placeholder will be introduced. Embedding
wildcards must be allowed everywhere in the content of a document. In due course the
placeholder might be substituted for an empty-, start-, end-, multi-tag, processing
instruction, comment, or content. The three states of validity (wellformed, nested, valid) are not influenced by wildcards.
The attributes of elements shall be passed to their children. True to the statement
of J. W. v. Goethe:
That which you've inherited from your fathers, earn it in order to possess it.
A typographic scenario helps to illustrate this concept:
If the properties italic an bold get marked up
then it is obvious, that the inner format element (row 6) implicitly owns the property
This mechanism equates to the object-oriented paradigm inheritance [Firesmith 1995] and observations about human knowledge structure and semantic networks [Collins 1969].
For FML the following inheritance rules are set:
An elements attributes also apply for its child elements.
Child attributes dominate parent attributes.
Multiple inheritance leads to lossless consolidation in an ordered attribute-value
Queries proceed in the direction child→parent.
Therefore an element might have far more attributes than it declares itself.
Neither does this feature affect the syntax of an FML document (except introducing an ordered attribute-value list) nor the properties of an FML graph. But the concept must apply when attributes are retrieved within an implementation
There are two representations of an FML-instance:
FML-document must have an unambiguously corresponding graph. The graph will interpret
and visualize the document and is the basis for graph operations and for a data model
within an implementation.
FML follows the fundamental statement
The computer representation of a document should reflect what really is [DeRose 1990]. The FML graph must be a consistent polyhierarchical graph following the evolution of data structures:
Long, long ago, people stored data in lists, because that was all that was available.
Then, someone came up with the idea of storing data in tables. So relational databases
came along and people moved up the ladder to tables. A few years ago, XML came along
so data moved up again to trees. Can you guess what will happen next? The Semantic
Web folks want us to move to using graphs. Should we move to graphs? Seems to be the
next logical step in information evolution. What’s holding us back? Well, it’s probably
too soon. The world is still in the tree phase.
Any derivation sequence of the context-free grammar of an FML document will lead to a monohierarchy. But the FML graph is polyhierarchical. Constructions have to apply, since document grammar is different
to document interpretation. A system of rules for the bidirectional transformation
has to be defined. For both translation directions it must be possible to include
relevant or to exclude irrelevant perspectives.
An FML instance has to be unique. As well the interpretation of an FML document by an FML graph and the transformation between grammar and graph. In particular the following requirements have to be considered:
All syntactically identifiable function units (components) of an FML document must relate to corresponding nodes in an FML graph.
All nodes of an FML graph must relate to corresponding components.
All encapsulated informations in the nodes of an FML graph must relate to grammar-units.
The bidirectional transformation must be unambiguous.
No loss of information during transformation. Each change in one of the FML instance representation forms leads to a predictable change in the other one.
For SGML/XML that requirement gets discussed with the terms unambiguous markup and deterministic content model [Brueggemann 1993]. Unambiguousness guarantees integrity and consistency of FML instances, secure interpretation and reliability during information exchange with
A markup meta-language has no influence on the structured content. FML may not regulate content redundancies, but controls the syntactic rules for markup.
Intensive use of markup increases document volume. The real content may shrink to
only a fraction of the markup document.
Compared to XML the markup coding expenses have to be reduced according to the principle of syntactical
minimalism. XML deals very lavishly with markup characters. An example is the syntax for comments:
Why 'waste' 7 symbols? That style of encoding is not primarily subject to the requirement
high entropy or minimal redundance.
The utility of a language as a tool of thought increases with the range of topics
it can treat, but decreases with the amount of vocabulary and the complexity of grammatical
rules which the user must keep in mind. Economy of notation is therefore important.
Economy requires that a large number of ideas be expressible in terms of a relatively
An FML document shall use only a minimal and necessary amount of information content for markup control
characters. On the other hand notation minimalism must avoid an extensive overload
of symbols. Therefore FML will use a psychological optimum considering the requirements compatibility and ergonomics.
Historically the most important processor of documents is the reading and writing
human [Fischer 2004].
Several kinds of markup (punctuation, decorative, orienting, structuring, informative,
commenting and print markup) apply to documents for supporting the natural reading
process. For the data-centric approach
markup has nothing to do with publishing, Brian Reid, the developer of Scribe, pointed out in the conclusion of Reid 1998. Now FML is a generalized and not a typographic markup language and respects the data-centric
approach. Still the established document-centric ergonomic demands are transferable
to the human-FML interaction:
Convenience: providing necessary and minimize dispensable functionality,
Usability: high quality, capacity and performance,
Perceivability: technological transparency, clarity and unambiguousness,
Readability: comprehensible documents and models,
Learnability: minimal training period,
Documentation: covering all information needs required by users.
Additional criteria apply for an implementation.
Generally, FML documents may be much more complex (more difficult to read and to process) than XML-documents, since for a human mind they are not as easy to capture, as monohierarchies
are. In spite of that, authors have a higher degree of freedom: Documents may be marked
up natively and without any synthetic constructs. Structure breaks do not have to
be restored. Insertion tasks are less critical. Document-interpretation with an FML graph is transparent.
Another ergonomic requirement is proposed: the freestyle-criteria. The term freestyle indicates that the performer of an activity may determine the way of technical execution
to a certain extent by himself. Also the performer is largely independent from restricting
rules. This general definition [Wikipedia 2009] shall also apply when the performer is the author of an FML document and the activity is modelling and writing a document.
FML must support multilingual content and identifiers and therefore strictly use the
Unicode character encoding UTF-8. Secure interchange and global encoding potentials will benefit from that stringent
document condition. This way FML follows the distinct encoding tendency and the general encoding recommendation of the W3C:
[. . . ]to provide an unambiguous encoding of the content of plain text, ultimately
covering all languages in the world, but also major text-based notational systems
for science, technology, music, and scholarship.
The secondary writing direction will be inalterable vertical, from top to bottom.
The primary writing direction is horizontal, distinguishing dextrograde and sinistrograde
writing. This way also semitic languages are supported.
Furthermore FML has to provide a stable reference implementation and a concise specification.
The technological architecture of FML is outlined, interaction of the function units
Everything should be made as easy as possible, but not easier.
— Albert Einstein
A compound of content and markup will form an FML document. Each functional unit is called a component. The following graph shows all components and relations within a document:
The component content contains the underlying real content of an FML document before applying any markup: An arbitrary UTF-8 character sequence.
No special handling of formatting symbols (as in XML) applies in the grammar (
trim may apply at the implementation level): All symbols, also clear spacing, tabulators,
wrappings, etc. are integral part of the content sequence. Only the markup initiating symbol
< has to be escaped properly:
Production rule: fml.content
The prolog of an FML document encapsulates the following three optional declarations:
global document informations with the optional attributes
fml.name: name of the document
fml.uri: unique URI of the document
fml.description: document description
fml.version: FML version number (
fml.fragment: fragment identification
fml.schema: physical URI of a validating schema
fml.trim="true"|"false": parser instruction about handling formatting symbols for FML graph-nodes of type fml.node.content
fml.writing-direction="lr"|"rl": determination of the writing-direction for external content processors
global informations about possible perspectives within the document with the optional
fml.perspective.name: unique name of the perspective (may apply as a prefix for all markup-components)
fml.perspective.uri: unique URI of the perspective
fml.perspective.description: perspective description
fml.perspective.schema: physical URI of a validating schema (overrides global schema-assignment for this perspective)
global informations about possible namespaces within the document with the optional
fml.namespace.name: unique name of the namespace (may apply as a tag-name-prefix)
fml.namespace.uri: unique URI of the namespace
fml.namespace.description: namespace description
These informations all support readers, authors and external processors in the cognition
of document properties for parsing, validating or other processing actions.
Production rule: fml.prolog
Also in FML
tags are the primary instrument for content structuring. Four different types of tags exist:
The start-tag and the empty-tag optionally contain any number of ordered attributes. Each of them contains an unlimited
number of ordered values, a data-list. Attribute assignment may as well apply for
start-tags and empty-tags in a multiple-tag. The name of an assigned attribute must be unique within one tag. Language inherent attributes are
fml.trim: instruction to a parser about the treatment of formatting symbols during document
ID of the segment in which a tag optionally participates (see concept segmentation) (shortcut: tag-suffix
fml.segment.pos: position within the segment (shortcut: tag-suffix
Each tag is unambiguously assigned to a namespace. The name of the namespace precedes the
name of the tag as a prefix. If there is no namespace assigned, then the tag is in the default-namespace. Also each tag is unambiguously assigned to a perspective (or default-perspective).
ID may be assigned as a suffix to a start-tag or to an end-tag (see concept identification). In the same perspective
pi, in the same namespace
nsj and for the same tag-name
IDs must be unique in the set of start-tags
TS[pi][nsj][tnk] and they must be unique in the set of end-tags
Production rule: fml.tag
PIs are targeted by external processors and neither have a structuring motive nor they
are of any relevant semantic for the language FML. Actually processing instructions are a procedural relict within a declarative markup language. A processing instruction may explicitly be assigned to another perspective than the default-perspective.
A processing instruction encapsulates two literals:
target for identifying the external processor and
instruction as a command for that processor.
Production rule: fml.pi
A wildcard is a simple placeholder for later substitution into one component of type tag, comment or processing instruction. Before substitution no structuring motive has to be assumed. A placeholder is just
a declaration of intent. A wildcard may explicitly be assigned to another perspective than the default-perspective.
Production rule: fml.wildcard
We present the formal grammar of an FML document with 30 production rules (fml-grammar.ebnf):
fml.document = fml.prolog? (fml.content | fml.tag | fml.comment | fml.pi | fml.wildcard)* ;
fml.prolog = fml.prolog.document fml.prolog.perspective* fml.prolog.namespace* ;
fml.prolog.document = '<@'
('fml.name="' fml.attribute.value '"')
(space 'fml.uri="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.description="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.version="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.fragment="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.schema="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.trim="' ('true'|'false') '"')?
(space 'fml.writing-direction="' ('lr'|'rl') '"')?
'>' linewrap ;
fml.prolog.perspective = '<@'
('fml.perspective.name="' fml.attribute.value '"')
(space 'fml.perspective.uri="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.perspective.description="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.perspective.schema="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
'>' linewrap ;
fml.prolog.namespace = '<@'
('fml.namespace.name="' fml.attribute.value '"')
(space 'fml.namespace.uri="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
(space 'fml.namespace.description="' fml.attribute.value '"')?
'>' linewrap ;
fml.content = ( (UTF-8-character - '<') | '\<' )* ;
fml.tag = '<' (fml.tag.start | fml.tag.end | fml.tag.empty | fml.tag.multiple) '>' ;
fml.tag.start = (fml.perspective.name '|')? (fml.namespace.name ':')? fml.tag.name (fml.tag.id)?
(fml.tag.segment)? (space fml.attribute)* ;
fml.tag.end = (fml.perspective.name '|')? '/' (fml.namespace.name ':')? fml.tag.name (fml.tag.id)? ;
fml.tag.empty = (fml.perspective.name '|')? (fml.namespace.name ':')? fml.tag.name
(fml.tag.segment)? (space fml.attribute)* '/' ;
fml.tag.multiple = (fml.tag.start | fml.tag.end | fml.tag.empty)
(fml.tag.start | fml.tag.end | fml.tag.empty)+ ;
fml.tag.name = fml.name ;
fml.tag.id = '#' fml.name ;
fml.tag.segment = '%' fml.segment.id '%' fml.segment.pos ;
fml.segment.id = fml.name ;
fml.segment.pos = number ;
fml.perspective.name = fml.name ;
fml.namespace.name = fml.name ;
fml.attribute = fml.attribute.name '="' fml.attribute.value '"' (',"' fml.attribute.value '"')* ;
fml.attribute.name = fml.name ;
fml.attribute.value = ( (UTF-8-character - '"') | '\"' )* ;
fml.pi = '<?' (fml.perspective.name '|')? fml.pi.target space fml.pi.instruction '>' ;
fml.pi.target = fml.name ;
fml.pi.instruction = ( (UTF-8-character - '>') | '\>' )+ ;
fml.wildcard = '<' (fml.perspective.name '|')? '>' ;
fml.name = ( (UTF-8-character - escape-symbols.exclude) | escape-symbols.include )+ ;
UTF-8-character = [U+0000 - U+FFFF] ;
space = U+0020 ;
linewrap = U+000A ;
number = ( '0' | '1', '2', | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9' )+ ;
escape-symbols.exclude = ( '>', '<', '\', '@', '?', '!', '/', '|', ':', '#', '%', space ) ;
escape-symbols.include = ( '\>' | '\<', '\\', | '\@' | '\?' | '\!' |
'\/' | '\|' | '\:' | '\#' | '\%' | '\' space ) ;
The grammar displays that there are not many constraints regarding character usage
for names and identifiers. Actually, pretty much cryptic and delicate literals are
constructable. But FML takes up the position of maximum freedom and justifiable demands minimal restrictions.
One additional rule applies: Names and identifiers must not begin with 'fml.'. This
literal is generally reserved for language inherent constructs. A lexical parser has
to check this constraint within postprocessing.
Three states of validity will be distinguished:
A FML-document conforming strictly to the grammar of the language definition (see section “Grammar”) will be in the state wellformed, and thus, may be transformed (see transformation) into a corresponding FML-graph (see FML graph).
If an FML-document is wellformed and its corresponding FML-graph has exactly one root-element-node and none of the other element-nodes have
more than one parent (monohierarchical structure) it will be in the state nested.
If a FML-document D is wellformed and in accordance with any schema definition (see section “Future Work”) S, then D is said to be valid against S.
Valid implies wellformed but not necessarily nested. The state nested always implies wellformed.
The validity status nested responds to the question, whether the new monohierarchy-suspending freestyle features Interference (see concept interference), Congruence (see concept congruence), Independence (see concept independence), or Segmentation (see concept segmentation) have been used or whether structural XML-compatibility exists.
Due to the requirement graph representation, for each wellformed
FML document exists a corresponding FML graph for document interpretation, visualization and model transformation.
Now the graph gets defined, graph-theoretic characteristics are outlined.
All nodes of the polyhierarchical FML graph are defined: Type, representation form, corresponding components of an FML document, possible children and parents, and encapsulated informations.
Virtual root-node of the polyhierarchical FML graph. This node represents the whole FML document and encapsulates all global prolog-declarations.
; Possessa [Guitton 2010] | Courier New;
fml.name | 'FML'
Components: document, prolog
fml.node-type = 'fml.node.document'
fml.trim? = 'true' | 'false'
fml.writing-direction? = 'lr' | 'rl'
(fml.perspective.name, fml.perspective.uri, fml.perspective.description, fml.perspective.schema)*
(fml.namespace.name, fml.namespace.uri, fml.namespace.description)*
Virtual node underneath the document-node for the subordination of all components that belong to a particular perspective. Not the perspectives declared in the prolog apply, only the perspectives actually in use. A special case is the
default-perspective, that applies for all components that are not assigned to any perspective (also if the optional perspective-concept
is not in use at all). No content may get excluded: The nodes of the type fml.node.perspective include all nodes of the type fml.node.content as their direct or indirect children.
; Courier New;
fml.perspective.name | 'fml.default'
The UTF-8 character-sequence between two markup-components forms a node of type fml.node.content. The content may also be empty (∅) as an insert position for further editing, or
filled only with formatting characters (~). So these nodes represent the real content
and are always leafs in an FML graph.
Display: Round Rectangle;
fml.content | '∅' | '~'
Elements are the primary instrument for structuring a polyhierarchical FML graph. Two corresponding tags will form a node of type fml.node.element. This node directly or indirectly subordinates exactly to one perspective, may be
a child of several elements, and may itself be parent of other elements. Elements
content may be enriched by attributes.
; Courier New;
fml.node-type = 'fml.node.element'
fml.element.autocompleted? = 'start-tag' | 'end-tag'
fml.element.trim? = 'true' | 'false'
Processing instructions are addressed by external document processors and have no
; Courier New;
Components: processing instruction
The edge-set exclusively consists of directed edges between two nodes that are arranged
in a hierarchical relation: . Except of fml.node.document each node possesses at least one incoming edge. fml.node.content, fml.node.comment, fml.node.pi and fml.node.wildcard will never have outgoing edges.
An FML graph will have one node of type fml.node.document, the other nodes may occur unlimited. An empty document will be represented by exactly
one node of type fml.node.document.
Each edge is labeled with . For all outgoing edges of a node, numbering starts with
0 and increments without any gaps. That value indicates the position of the corresponding
components within the linear sequence of an FML document.
Parent-child-relations between node-types are possible with directed edges and the
An FML graph has the following characteristics:
No loop road exists.
Each edge represents a parent→child relation.
At most one edge between two different vertices.
A least one path exists from the root node to any other node.
Edges are labeled with numbers.
Nodes encapsulate attribute-value pairs.
There is exactly on node with children and without any parents.
Nodes without children exist.
A direct and an indirect path between a parent and a child may never exist simultaneously.
Redundant paths between two nodes may exist, but exclude direct connections.
Nodes may have multiple parents. Each node (except root-node) can be reached by at
least one directed path from the root. Polyhierarchies are self-similar: Each subgraph
is as well a polyhierarchy.
The following graph exemplifies a polyhierarchy and is in accordance with the graph-theoretic
, graphs and graph-schemata can be described and exchanged. At http://www.freestyle-markup.org/gxl/fml-graph.schema.gxl a
-schema is presented, that formally describes FML graphs and may validate particular graph-instances.
There are 9 fundamental FML-concepts, that consider all requirements and use the features of FML documents and FML graphs. These concepts mainly arise from new possibilities in an unrestricted polyhierarchical
According to the two general characteristics for markup (
[. . . ] part of the text, yet distinguishable from it.
Raymond 1993), annotations are embedded in the content and separable from it. The position of markup-components (tag, comment, processing instruction, wildcard) in the content-sequence is very impotant: Changing it leads to a totally different document interpretation,
a different FML graph. Markup embedding is based upon simple rules:
Markup section start is indicated by the familiar symbol "<".
Markup section end is indicated by the familiar symbol ">".
If occurring in content, the markup-symbols "<" and ">" (as well as "\") have to be escaped properly ("\<",
"\>", "\\") .
The prolog-components are optional but have to be well ordered and the first annotations in
The other markup-components tag, comment, processing instruction and wildcard may be inserted unrestricted into the content.
The following example illustrates the use of all markup-components (excl. prolog) in an wellformed
FML document and the use of all nodes types in a corresponding FML graph.
The following FML graph represents the empty
Informations about the document itself, perspectives and namespaces may be declared
at the very beginning of an FML document. These declarations are optional and a support for authors, editors and external
processors for the evaluation of the document. The attributes of each declaration
are self-describing and relevant for all use cases of a declarative markup language.
For document interpretation all declared informations will be lossless transformed
into the attributed root of an FML graph, a node of the type fml.node.document.
The following example contains all of the optional declarations with all possible
For FML the primary instrument for structuring document content are tags: empty-tags and start-tags with corresponding end-tags. A corresponding tag-pair forms an element in an FML graph interpretation and subordinates the data sequence in between. Tagging and interpretation
is handled about the same as in XML/SGML, except that there are less restrictions and more features.
A root-element is possible, but not necessary. Isolated tags (tags with a missing
corresponding start- or end-tag) are alright: Missing start or end is assumed beyond
document borders (see concept fragmentation).
Attributes refine tags and enrich them with additional informations. This specialization is realized by
declaring an ordered list of attributes within start-tags or empty-tags in an FML document. Within one tag each attribute name must be unique. Therefore elements may possess an unlimited number
of children, nodes of type fml.node.attribute. Each attribute again contains a non-empty ordered value-list.
According to the object-oriented inheritance paradigm FML offers a mechanism for passing on attributes from parents to children: An element
e1 will inherit from element
e1 is a direct or indirect child of
e0. Neither this concept has syntactical implications for an FML document nor it influences the transformation into an FML graph. Rather the inheritance concept reflects on the level of implementation: With the
Attribut Element.getAttributes(boolean enableInheritance) attributes are queried with or without inheritance, depending on the parameter
The following scenario illustrates concept and usage of inheritance.
content: Markup of the content
by the typographic properties bold
, black, red, and UPPERCASE is relized by the general formatting-tag
and the specializing attributes
. Four markups along these properties will result in the following document structure:
f0.getAttributes(false): style="u", color="r"
f0.getAttributes(true): style="u", color="r"
f1.getAttributes(true): color="b", style="u"
f2.getAttributes(true): ucase="t", style="i","u", color="r"
The markup of interfering structures is not subject to any restrictions and demands
no special attention. Start- and endpositions of semantic segments are marked up separately
and independently. Resulting interferences are absolutely permitted. A content-segment
that is located in the markup-area of
n corresponding tag-pairs will directly or indirectly be a child of
n elements in an FML graph.
The following scenario illustrates the handling of overlapping. For clearness, the
semantic markup segments are typographic ones.
content: Marking up the content
with the typographic properties italic
) and red (
will result in the following document structure:
The concept Identification serves for the secure assignment of corresponding tags. Generally a start-tag and an end-tag will correspond, if they exhibit the same name in the same perspective and in the
same namespace. But if a document contains several start-tags of the same name or several end-tags of the same name, then the identification of corresponding tags will be ambivalent for element-construction. This interpretation uncertainty will
be dissolved with the concept identification: The assignment (applying tag-name-suffix
#IDi) of an unique identification key
IDi to both parts of a tag-pair will weld them and assure correspondency.
This concept is convenient for scenarios where complex structures with interferring
markup occur and where the available tag-set has a high degree of semantic overload.
The following typographic example illustrates the use of the concept identification:
content: For the markup of the content
along the typographic properties italic
only one formatting element (tag
) is available. The specialization of
gets effected with the attribute
and its value-range
for red. The resulting document structure is the following:
If we now markup the interfering structures without applying the concept identification
then corresponding tag
s are defined from outside to inside (according to the properly-nested
principle of XML
). Thus that FML document
would get interpreted in an FML graph
-interpretation of course does not reflect the real scenario, the real document structure.
The question "Which
forms with which
an element?" must be determinable (actually
2! + 3! = 8
element arrangements are possible).
The right result can be achieved applying the simple and intuitive concept identification:
The markup of congruent structures gets realized using indecomposable multiple-tags. A multiple-tag unites any number of start-tags, end-tags and empty-tags in an irrelevant order, not allowing any content in between.
The concept congruence ensures structural security and consistency. Placing tags one after another in a sequence results in unintended hierarchical relations and
the feasibility to break congruence by inserting content between the tags.
The following scenario illustrates the markup of congruent structures:
content: Marking up the content
with the typographic properties italic
) and red (
will result in the following document structure:
FML admits a consolidated markup of heterogeneous perspectives into one redundance-free
document. One perspective represents an identified annotation layer. The components
tag, processing instruction and wildcard may optionally be assigned to exactly one perspective. The assignment to a perspective
Pi with the unique name
Piname will be effected by inserting the prefix
Piname| right after the markup delimiter
<. This assignment concept applies for components, not for attributes or for each tag in a multiple-tag.
All of the perspectives in use will share the documents content. Components that are not explicit assigned to a perspective will be subordinated
to the default-perspective. Thus each FML document contains at least one perspective.
Perspectives may optionally be declared in the prolog. Neither declared perspectives have to be in use in the document nor the perspectives
in use in the document have to be declared in the prolog. For a document interpretation within an FML graph only the perspectives that are really in use will be transformed to a node of type
fml.node.perspective. During transformation optionally any perspectives may get included or excluded.
The following example illustrates the application of the concept independence with two indepentent annotation layers structuring the same content:
content: Marking up the content
with the typographic properties bold
and red is accomplished differently by two Illustrators
and results in the following document structures (bold
I1 + I2:
I1 + I2:
The powerful concept segmentation offers the composition of new content based on segments of the existing content. A virtual element encapsulates the content of participating tags and will be subordinated to the corresponding perspective-node (fml.node.perspective) in an FML graph as a direct child with the constant position
-1. Since beside position and run length also quantity and order of involved segments
is arbitrary via the language inherent tag-attributes
fml.segment.pos, boundless composition possibilities arise from the charachter pool of the linear
content sequence of a document.
An intensive use of this concept will decrease readability, but for pure mechanical
operating fulminant potentials arise. For instance the treasury of words of a language
could without redundancy be entirely marked up based on only the alphabet characters
of that language.
In the following example
gets assembled from
A fragment of a wellformed
FML document is also a wellformed
FML document. As a consequence of that, start-tags or end-tags may also be arranged outside of the document borders. If a start-tag can not find a corresponding end-tag, then it may be assumed that it marks up to the very end of the document. For the
purpose of document interpretation the missing end-tag will be inserted at the end of the document. If a end-tag can not find a corresponding start-tag, then it may be assumed that it marks up from the very beginning of the document.
For the purpose of document interpretation the missing start-tag will be inserted at the beginning of the document. If several
tags have to be added at the beginning or at the end of the document, then those are
subsumed into one multiple-tag.
That automatic completion takes place during the transformation of an FML document to an FML graph. For an FML graph-node of type fml.node.element the attribute
fml.element.autocompleted = "start-tag" | "end-tag" indicates that automatic completion applies. The re-transformation to an FML document will reconstruct the fragmented document with isolated tags.
The main benefits of the concept fragmentation are, that documents can be serialized and exchanged fragmented, and that - according
to the requirement entropy - a sparingly encoding is generally possible.
In the following example FML document1 has been marked up with 4 tags. Each tag is isolated. Automatic completion (row
) will lead to FML document2, which then may be interpreted in an FML graph.
During transformation, an FML document will be converted to an FML graph. Markup has to be transformed into nodes. Parent-child-relations between the nodes
have to be recognized. The result is a graph that visualizes the polyhierarchical
relations between content and markup. The graph will be clear without ambiguity and
may be transformed back into exactly the same original document.
The followings steps have to be taken for a secure transformation FML
Lexical analysis: The FML-document gets checked for coding- and grammar-consensus.
Parsing: Transforming the FML-document into a graph representing the document grammar (see section “Grammar”).
Extension: According to the fragmentation missing start- or end-tags will be put in front or at the end of the document using
Identification: Identifying corresponding tag pairs.
Tag→Element: Corresponding tag pairs will be transformed. At this point the term element
(representing the major FML-graph-node) gets introduced.
Reorganization: Realization of various reorganization actions for building up a consistent
FML-graph compliant to the definition (see FML graph).
Segment node: According to the segmentation, virtual segment-nodes will be inserted.
A milestone-based XML-representation for FML is available:
The evaluation of the FML
requirements has been accompanied by a survey about the freestyle-concepts
The conversation with many randomly selected XML
-experienced participants at the fair trade CeBIT, Hannover, Germany, was indeed very
inspiring. Details you may retrieve at http://www.freestyle-markup.org/survey
As expected, the acceptance correlates with the clearness of the document and graph
visualisation, and lies between 13-79 percent. The primary reasons for refusal or
scepticism were missing XML-conformance and a lack of imaginable application scenarios for the unfamiliar concepts.
That is understandable. But we have to point out that the four discussed concepts
are totally optional. If document structures are simple enough, there will be no need
to care about features beyond monohierarchies. Therefore, each single positive voice
justifies markup evolution in general.
The first timeline illustrates how FML arranges proportional among the most established comparable markup technologies:
For the figuration of the FML-requirements recent markup approaches that deal with comparable issues, mainly interference and independence, have been identified and inspected:
The second timeline shows how FML proportionally integrates among these approaches:
Using the extended classification from Witt 2004, the listed comparable approaches deal with interfering and independent structures
in the following ways:
The following overview evaluates how the listed approaches refer to the FML requirements. Does the technology discuss the requirement aspect in a solution oriented
way (+), or is the aspect off its research (-) ?
Many markup syntaxes other than XML have existed. Also various approaches for representing markup structures in data
models. Why FML? Why should FML be different? First of all FML generally addresses more requirements at once, therefore provides more features.
And second of all it is more than a thought experiment or an academic mind game. In
particular the data-centric approach and the need of data modelers and software engineers
is addressed. The development of FML initially began with a carefull reference analysis and the identification of appropriate
requirements and broadly desired markup features. The development will end with a
consistent specification and reference implementation. FML strives for the goal to provide completed and verified results, an implementation
specification of a base technology, ready for immediate software-integration.
For the near future the following actions are planned:
setting up a reference implementation for FML,
launching an editor for authoring FML-documents and visualizing FML-graphs,
integrating expected feedback,
proofing sufficiency with concrete scenarios,
maintenance of the project platform http://www.freestyle-markup.org,
conceptualization for secondary technologies:
Working with markup implicates far more than only serializing and deserializing between
FML-documents and corresponding FML-graphs. Markup documents will be validated, transformed, scanned, extracted, edited,
enriched, visualized, compressed, transported, archived, and processed in various
ways. The situation is comparable to other theoretical foundations like Codd’s RDBMS:
relational databases required hundreds of thousands algorithmic innovations to make
it work well
Basically, processing a polyhierarchical structure will cost more efforts than processing
XML, since the structure is less regular. Secondary technologies have to be discussed
intensely. Future work continues here.
The future of markup is an incontrovertible matter [Adler 2010].
The new and innovative technology
Freestyle Markup Language
has been set up to the fundamental state of a preliminary specification.
The basis of its constructive development was given by the dominant de facto standard
XML, various deficit-discourses, discussions about alternative solutions, as well as
personal developer experiences in the areas single source publishing, cross-media
content production, content management systems, and data modelling in general.
The objective of FML is to overcome current markup restrictions and to encourage the evolution of markup.
In particular, the terminologies "overlapping markup", "concurring markup", "crossover
markup", "multiple annotated markup", "multi-dimensional markup", and "multi-hierarchical
markup" are addressed. FML acts with its contrary freestyle-approach against the monohierarchical "properly nested"-idea of the restrictive language
XML and encourages an almost unlimited and unrestricted use of markup without any root-
or hierarchy-bondage. Even corresponding tags may be omitted: If a semantic unit starts
and applies to the rest of the document, just and only place a start-tag, if a semantic
unit ends and applies from the beginning of the document, just and only place an end-tag.
Do not care about nesting! Concentrate on semantically marking your
The identified and within a survey evaluated requirements for FML have been discussed, freestyle-concepts were pictured, a formal document-grammar and graph-representation were presented,
a XML-milestone-representation was defined, and future work has been outlined.
Scenarios for the usage of FML would mostly arise from systems, where a
transparent basis technology for an unambiguous interchange of data is required,
various perspectives across the same redundance-free document and
semistructured data have to be marked up.
The following areas of application would be predestinated for a cooperation:
knowledge data bases,
typographic description languages,
CMP, CMS, EDMS-applications,
multiple authoring systems,
revision control systems,
communication protocols and
Finally, a typographic marked up scenario, illustrated as a word cloud, will visualize the primary terminologies relevant to
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