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[whatwg] Considering a lang- attribute prefix for machine translation and intelligibility

From: Charles Pritchard <chuck@jumis.com>
Date: Wed, 02 May 2012 10:59:38 -0700
Message-ID: <4FA1760A.6060207@jumis.com>
On 5/2/12 10:50 AM, Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
> On Wed, May 2, 2012 at 9:59 AM, Charles Pritchard<chuck at jumis.com>  wrote:
>> There has been some discussion on the w3c/whatwg mailing lists about how far
>> we can mark up content with linguistic tags, such as marking word and/or
>> sentence boundaries.
>> In my authoring of web apps, I often write a short manual into a hidden div,
>> so that the vocabulary of my application can be processed by translation
>> services such as Google translate. Having content in the DOM seems the most
>> appropriate way to handle translation.
>> I'd like the group to consider the costs/benefits/alternatives to a "lang-"
>> attribute.
>> Such as<span lang-role="sentence">This is a sentence.</span>
>> The data- and aria- attributes have worked out well. We may want to make
>> room for one more.
>> Such a structure could be used to markup typical subject/object/verb and
>> clause sections; it could also be used to markup poetic texts as well as
>> defined meanings of content.
>> http://www.omegawiki.org/Expression:orange
>> This is an<span lang-meaning="DefinedMeaning:orange_(5821)">orange</span>.
>> Now this, this is<span
>> lang-meaning="DefinedMeaning:orange_(5822)">orange</span>.
>> In most cases there's no need to define sentence boundary, meaning or
>> otherwise. But, it'd sure be nice to have the ability to do so in a standard
>> manner.
>> I'd recommend role, meaning and prosody/pronunciation as the primary
>> targets. Character markup may be something to consider as it's come up in
>> SVG (rotate) and in CSS before. Doing a span for each character is not
>> practical, so we'd want a shorthand much as SVG has shorthand for rotate.
> Do you expect outside services to do anything useful with this
> information?  If not, the data-* attributes seem appropriate.

Yes, that's the primary reason. "services such as Google translate".
> If you do expect that, have you evaluated the existing mechanisms for
> embedding custom data in the page and found them wanting? If so, how?

1. Google translate gets a little loose with some markup, to where the 
translated content may be placed outside the span tag.

Such as: <div id="one">My potato is <span>hot</span></div>.

2. Some words can be ambiguous to the point that even a human reader may 
not know what the meaning is. It'd be great to have a mechanism to 

3. Speech markup is cool, I like it, but we can have something a little 
lighter or even have some interplay with prosody.
<span>You say <span>potato</span>, I say <span>potato</span></span>.
(poteitoe, potahtoe)

4. CSS markup has come up a few times for sentence, word and character 
boundaries. Language is not static, it is very much human, and enabling 
humans to markup their language is what HTML is all about.

I'll put some effort in later this week to dig up a few threads on the 
CSS requests.

5. Services should never touch data-*; I've had to put all my content 
into markup anyway. I've had to add id attributes so I can identify it 
when it's translated by the UA or other service. Since I've done all 
that work, it'd be really nice to have some more options to add in, such 
as disambiguation, part of speech and occasionally, pronunciation and 
translation suggestions.

Received on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 10:59:38 UTC

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