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Real World XML by Steven Holzner

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E. Deterministic Content Models (Non-Normative)

As noted in 3.2.1 Element Content, it is required that content models in element type declarations be deterministic. This requirement is for compatibility with SGML (which calls deterministic content models “unambiguous”); XML processors built using SGML systems may flag non-deterministic content models as errors.

For example, the content model ((b, c) | (b, d)) is non-deterministic, because given an initial b the XML processor cannot know which b in the model is being matched without looking ahead to see which element follows the b. In this case, the two references to b can be collapsed into a single reference, making the model read (b, (c | d)). An initial b now clearly matches only a single name ...

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