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Re: Alternatives for the term 'primary language'

From: Steve Zilles <szilles@adobe.com>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 18:09:33 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: www-international@w3.org
After reading the references in Richard Ishida's message and the WCAG uses 
of "primary natural language" (as well as "primary language"), I began to 
wonder what the purpose of the "primary language" was. WCAG requires 
(Success Criterion 3.1.2) that the language used for every passage or 
phrase be identifiable, so there seems to be no particular role for the 
primary language unless it is as the "default language" or "assumed 
language" that does not need to be otherwise identified. That is, one does 
not need to indicate the language of passages or phrases that are in the 
"default or assumed language"; one need only explicitly identify passages 
or phrases that are in some other language. If this is the role that the 
"primary language" is fulfilling, then I think that either of the terms

   default language
   assumed langauge

better describes the role.

This usage of the "primary language" may have nothing to do with the 
"language of the intended audience" nor is it necessarily the "document 
language". (I think that "document language" is a concept that is way to 
fuzzy to specify; it depends on what role within the document that language 
is fulfilling. Some of the examples given in messages to this e-mail list 
have shown that there are a number of possible roles to fulfill.

There probably is a need to identify the "language of the intended 
audience" at least in metadata so that a search mechanism can find me 
documents that are intended for me to read, whether or not I can read them. 
But this is rather different than identifying the default (or otherwise 
un-annotated) language of a document.

I am not sure I have seen a clear statement of what the goal of the 
"primary language" identification is to be (or was to have been).

Steve Zilles
115 Lansberry Court,
Los Gatos, CA 95032-4710
Received on Tuesday, 27 June 2006 01:09:47 UTC

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