natural language vs human language


During a discussion on using "natural language" 
or "human language" in the context of WCAG, I 
noticed that W3C I18N documents use either 
"natural language" or just "language" [1]. For 
many linguists, "natural language" has a 
relatively well-defined meaning: a natural 
langage is one that has native speakers. I don't 
think that the I18N documents are meant to apply 
only to languages with native speakers and 
exclude or ignore artificially created human 
langages ("constructed languages" [1]) such as 
Esperanto, Volapük, or Interlingua. On the other 
hand, I see no evidence that they also apply to 
computer languages such as Fortran or Python, so 
I assume these are not meant to be covered. So I 
wonder if the term "human language" would be more 
appropriate in those documents. (I apologize in 
advance if this issue has been discussed and 
resolved before; a Google search in the archives 
did not bring up relevant threads).

[1] Examples
* The following use the term "natural language":
  - Internationalization Best Practices: 
Specifying Languages in XHTML & HTML Content
  - Tutorial: Creating (X)HTML Pages in Arabic & Hebrew
    (but only once at the end of the document);
  - Best Practices for XML Internationalization
    <> (just once);
  - W3C I18N FAQ: Why use the language attribute?
  - W3C I18N FAQ: Two-letter or three-letter language codes
* The following just use "language", not "natural language" or
   "human language":
  - Ruby Annotation <>;
  - Unicode in XML and Other Markup Languages
  - Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML 
Internationalization: Handling Bidirectional Text 1.0
  - Authoring Techniques for XHTML & HTML 
Internationalization: Characters and Encodings 1.0
  - FAQ: Monolingual vs. multilingual Web sites
  - Setting the HTTP charset parameter
  - FAQ: Multilingual Forms
  - FAQ: Non-English tags
  - FAQ: HTTP and meta for language information
  - Language tags in HTML and XML
Of course, this is just a sample, not an exhaustive list.
(A Google search for "human language" in returns exactly three results.)

Best regards,


Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Departement of Electrical 
Engineering - Research Group on Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 - 3001 Leuven-Heverlee - BELGIUM
tel: +32 16 32 85 51 


Received on Monday, 12 February 2007 16:54:38 UTC