The @xml:lang attribute

Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Version 1.2

The @xml:lang attribute specifies the language (and optionally the locale) of the element content. The @xml:lang attribute applies to all attributes and content of the element where it is specified, unless it is overridden with @xml:lang on another element within that content. If the @xml:lang attribute on the document (outermost) element of a map or of a top-level topic has no value, the processor should assume a default value. The default value of the processor may be either fixed, configurable, or derived from the content itself, such as the @xml:lang attribute on the primary map file. As the default value of a processor may be fixed, it is strongly recommended that the @xml:lang attribute be set on each map and top-level topic.

The @xml:lang attribute is described in the XML Recommendation at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml/#sec-lang-tag. Note that the recommended style for the @xml:lang attribute is lower case language and uppercase locale (if used), separated by a hyphen, i.e., en-US or sp-SP.

Recommended use in topics

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

When a DITA document contains more than one language, the highest level element should set the @xml:lang attribute to the primary language (and optionally the locale) that applies to the document. If part of a document is written in a different language, authors should ensure that the part is enclosed in an element with the @xml:lang attribute set appropriately. Processors should style each element in a way that is appropriate for its language as identified by the @xml:lang attribute. This method of overriding the default document language applies to both block and inline elements that use the alternate language.

The @xml:lang attribute should be explicitly set on the root element of each map and topic. When the @xml:lang attribute is specified for a document, DITA processors must use the specified value to determine the language of the document. It is strongly recommended to author the @xml:lang value in the source language document, in order to facilitate the translation process, where translation tools (or translators) simply change the existing @xml:lang attribute value to the value of the target language.

Note: Some translation tools support changing the value of an existing @xml:lang attribute, but do not support adding new markup to the document being translated. Therefore, if the author of the source language content does not set the @xml:lang attribute, it may not be possible (or may be difficult) for the translator to add the @xml:lang attribute to the translated document.

Use in maps

The @xml:lang attribute can be specified on the <map> element. The @xml:lang attribute cascades within the map the same way that it cascades within a topic. The @xml:lang value does not cascade from one map to another or from a map to a topic, and an @xml:lang value specified in a map does not override @xml:lang values specified in other maps or in topics.

The primary language for the map should be set on the <map> element. The specified language should remain in effect for all child <topicref> elements, unless a child specifies a different value for the @xml:lang attribute.

When no @xml:lang value is supplied locally or on an ancestor, a processor determined default value is assumed.

Use with the @conref or @conkeyref attribute

When a @conref or @conkeyref attribute is used to include content from one element into another, the processor must use the effective value of the @xml:lang attribute from the referenced element, that is, the element that contains the content. If the reference element does not have an explicit value for the @xml:lang attribute, the effective value for its @xml:lang attribute is determined by using the standard @xml:lang inheritance from the referenced source.. If this action results in no effective value for @xml:lang, the processor should default to using the same value that is used for topics that do not set the @xml:lang attribute.

This behavior is shown in the following example, where the value of the @xml:lang attribute of the included note is obtained from its parent <section> element (id="qqwwee") that sets the @xml:lang attribute. In this example, the @xml:lang value "fr" is applied to the note with the id attribute "mynote".

<-- ****************installingAcme.dita********************* -->
                
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE topic PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DITA Topic//EN" "topic.dtd">
<topic xml:lang="en" id="install_acme">
 <title>Installing Acme</title>
 <shortdesc>Step-by-step details about how to install Acme.</shortdesc>
 <body>
  <section>
   <title>Before you begin</title>
   <p>Special notes when installing Acme in France:</p>
   <note conref="warningsAcme.dita#topic_warnings/frenchwarnings"></note>
  </section>
 </body>
</topic>
</dita>
*******************************************

<-- **************** warningsAcme.dita ********************* -->
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE topic PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DITA Topic//EN" "topic.dtd">
<topic id="topic_warnings">
 <title>Warnings</title>
 <body>
  <section id="qqwwee" xml:lang="fr">
   <title>French warnings</title>
   <p>These are our French warnings.</p>
   <note id="frenchwarnings">Note in French!</note>
  </section>
  <section xml:lang="en">
   <title>English warnings</title>
   <p>These are our English warnings.</p>
   <note id="englishwarnings">Note in English!</note>
  </section>
 </body>
</topic>
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