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natural language vs human language

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 17:54:31 +0100
Message-Id: <6.2.5.6.2.20070212171302.03594870@esat.kuleuven.be>
To: www-international@w3.org

Hi,

During a discussion on using "natural language" 
or "human language" in the context of WCAG, I 
noticed that W3C I18N documents use either 
"natural language" or just "language" [1]. For 
many linguists, "natural language" has a 
relatively well-defined meaning: a natural 
langage is one that has native speakers. I don't 
think that the I18N documents are meant to apply 
only to languages with native speakers and 
exclude or ignore artificially created human 
langages ("constructed languages" [1]) such as 
Esperanto, Volapük, or Interlingua. On the other 
hand, I see no evidence that they also apply to 
computer languages such as Fortran or Python, so 
I assume these are not meant to be covered. So I 
wonder if the term "human language" would be more 
appropriate in those documents. (I apologize in 
advance if this issue has been discussed and 
resolved before; a Google search in the archives 
did not bring up relevant threads).

[1] Examples
* The following use the term "natural language":
  - Internationalization Best Practices: 
Specifying Languages in XHTML & HTML Content
    <http://www.w3.org/TR/i18n-html-tech-lang/>;
  - Tutorial: Creating (X)HTML Pages in Arabic & Hebrew
    <http://www.w3.org/International/tutorials/bidi-xhtml/>
    (but only once at the end of the document);
  - Best Practices for XML Internationalization
    <http://www.w3.org/TR/xml-i18n-bp/> (just once);
  - W3C I18N FAQ: Why use the language attribute?
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-lang-why>;
  - W3C I18N FAQ: Two-letter or three-letter language codes
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-lang-2or3>.
* The following just use "language", not "natural language" or
   "human language":
  - Ruby Annotation <http://www.w3.org/TR/ruby/>;
  - Unicode in XML and Other Markup Languages
    <http://www.w3.org/TR/unicode-xml/>;
  - Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML 
Internationalization: Handling Bidirectional Text 1.0
    <http://www.w3.org/TR/i18n-html-tech-bidi/>;
  - Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML 
Internationalization: Characters and Encodings 1.0
    <http://www.w3.org/TR/i18n-html-tech-char/>;
  - FAQ: Monolingual vs. multilingual Web sites
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-mono-multilingual>;
  - Setting the HTTP charset parameter
    <http://www.w3.org/International/O-HTTP-charset>;
  - FAQ: Multilingual Forms
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-forms-utf-8>;
  - FAQ: Non-English tags
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-non-eng-tags>;
  - FAQ: HTTP and meta for language information
    <http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-http-and-lang>;
  - Language tags in HTML and XML
    <http://www.w3.org/International/articles/language-tags/Overview.en.php>.
Of course, this is just a sample, not an exhaustive list.
(A Google search for "human language" in 
http://www.w3.org/International/ returns exactly three results.)

Best regards,

Christophe


-- 
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
http://www.docarch.be/ 


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Received on Monday, 12 February 2007 16:54:38 GMT

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