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Matching string values across element boundaries

Subject: Matching string values across element boundaries
From: David Sewell <dsewell@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2013 14:15:28 -0400
 Matching string values across element boundaries
I expect this has been discussed here before, but I can't locate any relevant
discussion, so here goes.

We have input data with many unmarked short-title citations that look like

   Sprague, <hi rend="italic">Braintree Families</hi>

We want to wrap them inside another element, in our case a <ref> to the
bibliographic expansion. We have a venerable chain of XSLT 2.0 transforms that
does this, and pretty well, by preprocessing the data to convert all those
tags into a pair of unique ASCII characters, so that we can do string-matching
operations within a single text node that now includes something like

   Sprague, "Braintree Families%

which is easy to handle with xsl:analyze-string. then once we've wrapped all
strings we need to, we post-process with xsl:analyze-string to put the <hi>
elements back in.

In practice, given the proper regexes, this works quite well and provides the
desired output, but I always feel a bit guilty about the hackishness of the
approach. Given that the citations are quite variable in structure (usually
not always containing <hi> elements, with various combinations of text nodes
start and end), I've never come up with a good general-purpose way to operate
purely on elements and text nodes without the convert-tags-to-characters step.
Is there one (or more)?

David S.

David Sewell, Editorial and Technical Manager
ROTUNDA, The University of Virginia Press
PO Box 400314, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4314 USA
Email: dsewell@xxxxxxxxxxxx   Tel: +1 434 924 9973
Web: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/

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