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screenreader support for language subcodes

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008 16:54:03 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Cc: "WCAG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>


HTML provides attributes for language information. "Language tags" 
are used to identify languages. The primary subtag [1] can be 
supplemented with additional subtags for script, region, variant 
etctera (see the tutorial Language tags in HTML and XML [2]) although 
it is recommended to keep them as short as possible.

The HTML specification also defines how language codes should be 
interpreted [3]: user agents should favour an exact match, but should 
also consider matching primary codes to be sufficient. However, I 
recently ran some tests that showed that JAWS interprets language 
codes differently: if there is no exact match, JAWS appears to fall 
back to the default language (which is set by the user), even if the 
primary subtag of a composite language tag is supported. In other 
words, with JAWS configured to British English as the default 
language, a page with 'lang="de"' is read in German (language 
detection) but a page with 'en-US' are read in British English 
instead of American English. With JAWS configured to American English 
as the default language, a page with 'lang="de"' is read in German 
(language detection) but a page with 'en-GB' are read in American 
English instead of British English.
I haven't tested this yet with other default languages or other AT, 
but I have set up a page at <http://tinyurl.com/2dbcxl> that links to 
six test pages with different language tags. I would appreciate it if 
people could run some tests with other default lnaguages and other 
AT. I will then add the test results to the table at the bottom of the page.

[1] See Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: 
[2] <http://www.w3.org/International/articles/language-tags/>
[3] <http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/dirlang.html#h-8.1.3>

Best regards,


Please don't invite me to LinkedIn, Facebook, Quechup or other 
"social networks". You may have agreed to their "privacy policy", but 
I haven't.

Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Dept. of Electrical Engineering - SCD
Research Group on Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 bus 2442
B-3001 Leuven-Heverlee
tel: +32 16 32 85 51

Disclaimer: http://www.kuleuven.be/cwis/email_disclaimer.htm
Received on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 15:54:21 UTC

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