RE: meta content-language

In the I18n Activity we considered the alternative ways  of declaring
language for a long time, and the result of our thinking is summed up at

We also have some (slightly more extensive) tests in this area at

and a summary of results as of late 2004 for 5 browsers on XP.

I would recommend that we keep the language attributes for declaring the
default language of the content (the text-processing language) and not muddy
the waters by using meta Content-Language declarations fulfill a similar
role, because:
1. the acceptable values are different and the meta approach is incompatible
with declaring the text-processing language
2. the meta approach is really not used by anything according to the tests I
3. the question of inheritance is unclear when using the meta statement for
declaring the text-processing language

If the meta statement continues to be allowed, I suggest that it is used in
the same way as a Content-Language declaration in the HTTP header, ie. as
metadata about the document as a whole, but that such usage is kept separate
from use for defining the language of a range of content. As far as I can
tell, although Frontpage uses it and people on the Web recommend its use, it
has no effect at all on content, and wouldn't be missed if it were dropped.

I also think that we should avoid introducing the Content-Language pragma as
yet another way of declaring the default text-processing language of the
document since [a] it's already complicated enough to explain to authors how
to set up language information, [b] Google surveys show that over recent
years people have begun to use <html lang=... for this (as we've been
recommending), and [c] it's unnecessary duplication. 

Also, the Content language selection algorithm in makes no mention
of <html lang=.. as a way of identifying the default language, which it
actually does if it is present, since it has higher priority than HTTP

Hope that helps,

Richard Ishida
Internationalization Lead
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Ian Hickson
> Sent: 12 August 2008 11:04
> To: Henri Sivonen
> Subject: Re: meta content-language
> On Thu, 17 Apr 2008, Henri Sivonen wrote:
> >
> > It seems that some authoring tools and authors use <meta http-
> > equiv='content-language' content='languagetag'> instead of <html
> > lang='languagetag'>.
> >
> > Based on the usage pattern, I think authors mean to use <meta http-
> > equiv='content-language' content='languagetag'> in a way analogous to
> > <base href='uri'>. That is, as a declaration that belongs between HTTP
> > and the root element in the inheritance chain based on an obvious guess
> > about author intent. Moreover, with FrontPage, this isn't invisible
> > metadata, because a faulty meta content-language is visible to the
> > author as squiggly red spell checker lines.
> >
> > The spec should probably say something about this.
> Added Content-Language pragma.
> --
> Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
>       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
> Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

Received on Thursday, 14 August 2008 16:09:23 UTC