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5.11. xml:lang

Since XML documents are written in Unicode, XML is an excellent choice for multilingual documents, such as an Arabic commentary on a Greek text (something that couldn't be done with almost any other character set). In such multilingual documents, it's useful to identify in which language a particular section of text is written. For instance, a spellchecker that only knows English shouldn't try to check a French quote.

Each XML element may have an xml:lang attribute that specifies the language in which the content of that element is written. For example, the previous maxim might look like this:

<maxim xml:lang="el">
  &#x3C3;&#x3CC;&#3C6;&#3BF;&#3C2; &#x3AD;&#3B1;&#3C5;&#3C4;&#x3CC;&#x3BD;

This identifies it as Greek. The specific code used, el, comes from the Greek word for Greek, Figure Figure Figure Figure Figure Figure Figure Figure .

5.11.1. Language Codes

The value of the xml:lang language attribute should be one of the two-letter language codes defined in ISO-639, Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages, found at http://lcweb.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/langhome.html, if such a code exists for the language in question.

For languages that aren't listed in ISO-639, you can use a language identifier registered with IANA; currently, about 20 of these identifiers exist, including i-navajo, i-klingon, and i-lux. The complete list can be found at ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/iana/assignments/languages/tags. All identifiers begin with i-. For example:

<maxim xml:lang="i-klingon">Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam</maxim>

If the language you need still isn't present in these two lists, you can create your own language tag, as long as it begins with the prefix x- or X- to identify it as a user-defined language code. For example, the title of this journal is written in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Quenya language:

<journal xml:lang="x-quenya">Tyalië Tyelelliéva</journal>

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