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Subject: Proposal- xml:lang attribute

Hi all,

Please review my updated proposal. I've added best practice sections for
users and vendors/implementers.

We would like to finalize and approve our xml:lang proposal for submission
to the DITA TC during Monday's SC meeting. Please post your feedback to the


Gershon L Joseph
Member, OASIS DITA and DocBook Technical Committees
Director of Technology and Single Sourcing
Tech-Tav Documentation Ltd.
office: +972-8-974-1569
mobile: +972-57-314-1170
Title: Proposal for xml:lang Attribute

Proposal for xml:lang Attribute




Specifies the language and locale of the element content. The intent declared with xml:lang is considered to apply to all attributes and content of the element where it is specified, unless overridden with an instance of xml:lang on another element within that content. When no xml:lang value is supplied, the processor should assume a default value.

This attribute must be set to a language identifier, as defined by IETF RFC 3066 (http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3066.txt) or successor.

Data Type


Default Value

Not set



Recommended Usage

For a DITA document that contains a single language, the document element should always set the xml:lang attribute to the language (and optionally locale) that applies to the document.

For a DITA document that contains more than one language, the document element should always set the xml:lang attribute to the primary language (and optionally locale) that applies to the document. Wherever an alternate language occurs in the document, the element containing text in the alternate language should set the xml:lang attribute appropriately. The above way of overriding the default document language applies to both block and inline elements that use the alternate language.

While the Unicode standard provides for all languages to be encoded without the need for markup, using markup is strongly recommended to make the document as portable as possible. By using markup, the document can be processed by applications that do not fully implement the Unicode standard. In addition, the marked-up document can be read and understood by humans. Finally, when updating the document, the boundaries of each language are clear, which makes it much easier for the author to update the document.

Note to Vendors/Implementors

Applications that process DITA documents, whether at the authoring, translation, publishing, or any other stage, should fully support the Unicode algorithm to correctly implement the script and directionality for each language used in the document. The recommended practice is to identify every change in language via XML markup. When reading XML markup that embeds the Unicode script information (that is, a change in language), the embedded languages should be indicated via markup when the document is saved.

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