Ha! What’s the escape character here? Let me repost that (please delete above … sorry):
<b><strong>Never hurt anyone<strong><bt>, but to be perfectly honest it isn’t up to the W3C to decide on how human beings should read typographic methods that have been around for 5 centuries. As influential as they are, they’re not going to redefine our culture of reading & writing — not unless they snatch future deselopers and feed them the specs from birth.
But dealing with the specific — non-visual symbols for purely visual/primarily-visual-yet-ambiguously-semantic devices — what are the instances when it will be honestly useful for the non-visual reader to be aware of these things?
If we’re truly obsessed with semantics to the level of wanting our markup to be properly understood by aliens digging it up on stone tablets in 5000 years time, I’m sure attributes will suffice — ie. <em class=”species_name italic”>. Even then, I wouldn’t worry too much. As it is the debate is in a ridiculous mess of vague opinions in inappropriate places.