The LANG attribute specifies the language of an element's attribute values and its content, including all contained elements that do not specify their own LANG attribute. While the LANG attribute is not widely supported, its use may help search engines index a document by its language while allowing speech synthesizers to use language-dependent pronunciation rules. As well, visual browsers can use the language's proper quotation marks when rendering the Q element.
The attribute value is case-insensitive, and should be specified according to RFC 1766; examples include en for English, en-US for American English, and ja for Japanese. Whitespace is not allowed in the language code.
Use of the LANG attribute also allows authors to easily change the style of text depending on the language. For example, a bilingual document may have one language in italics if rendered visually or a different voice if rendered aurally. The HTML of such a document might be as follows:
This paragraph is in English.
Ce paragraphe est en français.
A document's primary language may be set using the LANG attribute on the HTML element, or, alternatively, by using the Content-Language HTTP header.
The DIR attribute specifies the directionality of text--left-to-right (DIR=ltr, the default) or right-to-left (DIR=rtl). Characters in Unicode are assigned a directionality, left-to-right or right-to-left, to allow the text to be rendered properly. For example, while English characters are presented left-to-right, Hebrew characters are presented right-to-left.
Unicode defines a bidirectional algorithm that must be applied whenever a document contains right-to-left characters. While this algorithm usually gives the proper presentation, some situations leave directionally neutral text and require the DIR attribute to specify the base directionality.
Text is often directionally neutral when there are multiple embeddings of content with a different directionality. For example, an English sentence that contains a Hebrew phrase that contains an English quotation would require the DIR attribute to define the directionality of the Hebrew phrase. The Hebrew phrase, including the English quotation, should be contained within a SPAN element with DIR=rtl.