Computers and the Humanities

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 41–50 | Cite as

What is SGML and how does it help?

  • Lou Burnard
Part I: General Topics


SGML is an abbreviation for “Standard Generalized Markup Language”. This language, or rather metalanguage, was first defined by an International Standard in 1986. To complement the many detailed technical descriptions of SGML now available, this paper briefly describes the purpose and scope of the standard, aiming to persuade non-technically minded readers that it has something to offer them.

Key words

TEI SGML markup metalanguage 


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  1. Bryan, Martin.SGML: An Author's Guide to the Standard Generalized Markup Language. Addison-Wesley, 1988. [Detailed text book giving full treatment of the standard, but primarily from the publishing perspective.]Google Scholar
  2. Coombs, James H.,et al. “Markup Systems and the Future of Scholarly Text Processing”.Communications of the ACM, 30, 11 (1987), 933–47. [Classic polemic in favour of descriptive over procedural markup presented from the scholarly perspective.]Google Scholar
  3. DeRose, Steven J.,et al. “What is Text, Really?”Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 1, 2 (1990).Google Scholar
  4. Goldfarb, Charles.The SGML Handbook. Oxford University Press, 1991. [Authoritative and exhaustive presentation of all aspects of ISO 8879, including annotated and cross referenced full text of the standard itself.]Google Scholar
  5. International Organization for Standardization. “ISO 8879: Information Processing — Text and Office Systems — Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) (ISO, 1986)”. [Annexes A and B to the Standard provide a formal but readable summary of its most important features.]Google Scholar
  6. International Organization for Standardization. “ISO/TR 9573: Information Processing — SGML Support Facilities — Techniques for Using SGML” (ISO, 1988). [Tutorial discussion of main features of the standard with some interesting examples.]Google Scholar
  7. van Herwijnen, Eric.Practical SGML. 2nd edition. Dordrecht: Kluwer, (1994). [Second, much improved, edition of an excellent introductory textbook with emphasis on how SGML is currently being used.]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lou Burnard
    • 1
  1. 1.Oxford University Computing ServiceOxfordUK

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