Is LANG appropriate for non-human languages?

Evan Kirshenbaum (
Tue, 1 Aug 95 13:27:14 EDT

I was thinking about the question of setting phonetic information in
HTML. Phonetic information is rendered in print using IPA
(International Phonetic Alphabet), which is a subset of Unicode/10646.
Since most most users are not equipped to handle these characters, an
informal (but written) standard has emerged on Usenet which
transcribes the IPA characters into 7-bit ASCII. This scheme is used
on alt.usage.english and sci.lang (at least).

My thoughts on rendering phonetics on a web page are:

- If I have the capability of seeing IPA, I would like to do so
even if the author, lacking the ability to enter the characters,
used the ASCII transcription.

- If I do not have the capability of seeing IPA, when presented
with such, I would prefer to see the transcription rather than a
mass of "unknown character" glyphs.

- If my browser supports it, I would like to be able to select a
phonetic transcription and hear an automatically generated

Clearly these are not things that can be required of a browser, but as
they are useful, it would be a shame to preclude a browser supporting

It would seem that the cleanest way to insert this ability in HTML is
to regester two new languages "i-phon-ipa" and "i-phon-ascii" and then

My name is pronounced
<lang lang=i-phon-ascii>/'Evn- 'kRSn-,bAm/</lang>

Reading rfc1766, it seems to be intended to cover only human
languages, although it does make a distinction between script
variants, as "az-arabic" and "az-cyrillic". Is this a reasonable use
of this attribute? If not, is there a better way to do this in HTML?

Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
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