Re: Multilingual Documents [was: HTML forms and UTF-8]

From: Paul Keinanen (
Date: Thu Dec 02 1999 - 03:43:07 EST

On Wed, 1 Dec 1999 18:18:27 -0800 (PST), "A. Vine" <>

>I'm not saying we're not moving in that direction - we certainly are here at Sun
>and the Alliance, and I know other companies are. The question is, how fast?
>Unicode is a big help in the area of multilingual support, but it is only a
>piece of it.

What exactly do you mean by multilingual support and how exactly does
this differ from generating separate documents in separate languages
with the same program (assuming internal Unicode or UCS-4 data
representation) ?

The only problems with true multilingual documents I can think of in
text processing, is to have some internal markup about which part of
the text is in a particular language, so that the correct hyphenation
rules and spell checker can be applied for each fragment of text. This
requires some manual input or some unreliable heuristics, but apart
from this, what is so special about this ?

The days have long since gone when it was acceptable to have
completely separate tools for each language, with the heavy costs of
training people for the oddities of each individual tool. At least in
companies that are doing foreign trade (which is much more common in
small countries than in large countries with a huge domestic market
such as the USA), the need for processing documents in various
languages is quite common, so the tools are selected largely on the
bases what languages they support.

I do not think that the step from supporting documents in multiple
languages to true multilingual documents is that large, as some seem
to imply in this forum.

>My observation is that there are not enough folks willing to pay the price
>_just_ for multilingual to warrant an all-out effort towards implementing it
>faster. I think many people would like the capability, and would use it if they
>had it, but when you tell them what it would cost and what other new features
>they'll have to give up if they want it right away, they would gladly stick with
>monolingual i18n.

What is monolingual i18n ? English with 8 bit characters ?

English with Unicode characters ? Hmm, Notepad on Windows NT 3.51
would qualify, since it had English menus and the ability to edit all
European languages simultaneously :-). The NT Notepad is a nice tool,
which I have been using for years, but I would expect that by now,
most true word processors would have similar multilingual support, but
this is unfortunately not the case.


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