Re: [Rd] R 2.5.1 - ?factor examples, details

From: Peter Dalgaard <p.dalgaard_at_biostat.ku.dk>
Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2007 09:08:46 +0200

François Pinard wrote:
> Hi, R people.
>
> In ?factor, in the "Examples:" section, we see:
>
> ## suppose you want "NA" as a level, and to allowing missing values.
> (x <- factor(c(1, 2, "NA"), exclude = ""))
> is.na(x)[2] <- TRUE
> x # [1] 1 <NA> NA, <NA> used because NA is a level.
> is.na(x)
> # [1] FALSE TRUE FALSE
>
> I'm a bit confused by this example, as I do not understand the point
> being made. Using 'exclude = ""' or not does not change the outcome.
> What is being demonstrated by this clause, here? Isn't "NA" a mere
> string, not really related to a missing value?
>
> It might also be some kind of linguistic problem, and I'm not a native
> English speaker. The "and to allowing" construct sounds strange to me.
> I would expect either "and to allow" or "and allowing", but maybe I'm
> plainly missing the meaning of the statement.
>
> Could this be clarified somehow?
>
>
I think this is a relic. In the olden days, there was no such thing as a missing character values, and factor() would behave like

 > (x <- factor(c(1, 2, "NA"), exclude = "NA")) [1] 1 2 <NA>
Levels: 1 2

...which was a pain when dealing with abbreviations for "noradrenalin", "North America", "New Alliance", "Neil Armstrong", etc. So character NA was added to R, and the example became irrelevant without anyone noticing.



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