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Re: Alternatives for the term 'primary language'

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 15:05:17 +0200
Message-Id: <>
To: <www-international@w3.org>

Hi Richard, All,

At 12:00 26/06/2006, Richard Ishida wrote:
The new WCAG draft is using the term 'primary language' in a different way 
than we have defined it in  "Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML 
Internationalization: Specifying the language of content 1.0" [1].  There 
are other, older, uses of the term 'primary language' that also do not 
conform to our usage in this document.

Do you think that WCAG should use another term?

In addition, 'primary language' doesn't really convey the meaning of the 
idea expressed at [1].  The meaning is intended to convey the language of 
the intended audience of the document, referring to the document as a 
whole, and contrasted with 'text-processing language' in that more than one 
language value makes sense in some circumstances.

WCAG 2.0 uses 'primary natural language' in the sense of the language of 
the intended audience of the document, but this language needs to be marked 
up or defined in a way that it can be used for text processing language, 
e.g. by text-to-speech engines (so specifying the primary language in an 
HTTP header is not sufficient).

Perhaps the time has come to think of an alternative term.

We would like your suggestions.

Brainstormed suggestions so far include:
         document language
         audience language
         web unit language
         language metadata
         language metadata declaration
         document language metadata
         readership language
         default langauge
         base language
         main language

'Web unit language' would be consistent with the use of the term 'web unit' 
in WCAG 2.0, but the adjective 'natural' is lost. Do you think it is 

I can imagine that many HTML authors would associate 'language metadata' 
(and other compounds with 'metadata') with the meta element; I wouldn't be 
surprised if the WCAG WG would be reluctant to use one of these compounds 
instead of 'primary natural language' for this reason.

'Document language' seemed interesting at one point, but is probably not 
specific enough - particularly when the term is translated into other 

Current favourites are
         readership language (sounds a bit clunky)
         audience language

The 'primary language or languages of the intended audience' (based on 
Chris Lilley's suggestion) seems to cover the intent of WCAG 2.0 (see [1] 
and [2]), but WCAG tries to avoid words like 'intent' to keep the success 
criteria testable.

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-WCAG20-20060427/guidelines.html#meaning
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/Overview.html#meaning-doc-lang-id

Best regards,

Christophe Strobbe

Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Departement of Electrical Engineering - Research Group on 
Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 - 3001 Leuven-Heverlee - BELGIUM
tel: +32 16 32 85 51

Disclaimer: http://www.kuleuven.be/cwis/email_disclaimer.htm
Received on Monday, 26 June 2006 13:05:10 UTC

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