3.2 COCOA Tags

COCOA takes its name from the first widely available package for literary concordances produced by Oxford Computing Services in the 1970s.1 Its simple tag-grammar has three parts: (1) delimiter characters (the diamond brackets, or some other symbols not found in the text), (2) a variable or type name, and (3) a value or token name. The variable names some general class of feature or attribute of the text that follows it, e.g., "author." The value gives the particular kind of this general class or category, e.g., "Edmund Spenser." The variable or type may take any form, but it always has the same spelling once employed. For example, other tags could be "title," "date," and "publisher," but these could not change into forms like "heading," "datepub," and "publishers" and still remain the same tag. The value or token following it, "John Palsgrave," may change, say, into other values such as "Shakespeare," "John Donne," or "anonymous."

It is a convention that the variable or type name may be dropped if the delimiters themselves can carry that meaning, that is, if the delimiters surround only one kind of tag. For example,

<au John Palsgrave>
<<John Palsgrave>>
might mean the same thing. In the first form, single diamond brackets are the delimiters that separate the variable-type "au" and the value-token "John Palsgrave" from the text. In the second form, the double diamond brackets are understood to stand for "<au >" rather than "title" or "date." Any other tags must use different and unique delimiters.

All COCOA tags apply to the text from whatever they occur and hold until another tag with the same variable appears. That is, every word in the text following "<au John Palsgrave>" would be tagged as being written by Palsgrave until a subsequent "<au >" tag occurred. COCOA-style tags have several implementations and no fixed set of rules. <i>TACT</i>, for example, can employ them but by relaxing the length of variable names in tags in effect makes its own version of COCOA tagging available.