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RE: Language tags on root

From: Addison Phillips [wM] <aphillips@webmethods.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2005 17:37:21 +0000
To: "Misha Wolf" <Misha.Wolf@reuters.com>, <public-i18n-core@w3.org>, "i18n IG" <w3c-i18n-ig@w3.org>, <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <PNEHIBAMBMLHDMJDDFLHGEBJJCAA.aphillips@webmethods.com>

A couple of notes on Misha's comments.

> The code for multiple languages is "mul":
>    http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/englangn.html#mn

Language tags and ranges containing the primary language "mul" (and its
friend "und" for undetermined) are deprecated by RFC 3066 (item 6 in section
2.3). Tagging a document's root element with "mul" is essentially
meaningless. It doesn't convey any information about how to render or
process the document, content base directionality, and so forth. It does
indicate that multiple languages exist in the document and that none of them
are to be considered the primary language. But having an empty xml:lang does
the same thing (effectively).

I think it is important to separate (as W3C-I18N-GEO does) the processing
language (the <html> element) from meta data about the page (the <meta>
element). The latter might very well contain multiple languages. Content
authors must then consider how best to label a document.

For example, an English document commenting on a French novel might include
more text in French than English if substantial text is quoted. The <html>
element would probably be set to "en" and the metadata about the document
might also say "en" (or "en, fr; q=0.8", since knowledge of French seems to
be at least useful in reading the document).

> Looking quickly through the public XHTML 2 draft, I couldn't
> find a mention of http-equiv.  Is it still there?

No, I don't believe it is in there. If I understand correctly, the <meta>
element changes how it deals with metadata in XHTML2, divorcing itself
somewhat from HTTP. The ability to describe the content language can still
be accomplished by defining a property. However, I don't believe the XHTML2
draft contains a pre-defined property for document language and we should
probably add that to I18N-Core's comments. Perhaps something like:

<meta property="documentLanguage" content="en" /> <!-- the primary language,
could be a list of languages -->

and maybe also:

<meta property="contentLanguage" content="fr, tlh-AQ, mn-Cyrl-MN" />

Note that I18N-Core WG's comments on XHTML2 are at:


We welcome additional comments on this and other specifications. For a list
of documents in various stages of last call, please refer to our review


Best Regards,


Addison P. Phillips
Director, Globalization Architecture

Chair, W3C Internationalization Core Working Group

Internationalization is an architecture.
It is not a feature.
Received on Thursday, 27 January 2005 18:29:44 UTC

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