Using language attributes on the html element

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.1 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.1.

Applicability

HTML and XHTML

This technique relates to Success Criterion 3.1.1: Language of Page (Sufficient).

Description

The objective of this technique is to identify the default language of a document by providing the lang and/or xml:lang attribute on the html element.

Identifying the language of the document is important for a number of reasons:

HTML 4.01 uses the lang attribute of the html element. XHTML served as text/html uses the lang attribute and the xml:lang attribute of the html element, in order to meet the requirements of XHTML and provide backward compatibility with HTML. XHTML served as application/xhtml+xml uses the xml:lang attribute of the html element. Both the lang and the xml:lang attributes can take only one value.

Note

HTML only offers the use of the lang attribute, while XHTML 1.0 (as a transitional measure) allows both attributes, and XHTML 1.1 allows only xml:lang.

Allowed values for the lang and xml:lang attributes are indicated in the resources referenced below. Language tags use a primary code to indicate the language, and optional subcodes (separated by hyphen characters) to indicate variants of the language. For instance, English is indicated with the primary code "en"; British English and American English can be distinguished by using "en-GB" and "en-US", respectively. Use of the primary code is important for this technique. Use of subcodes is optional but may be helpful in certain circumstances.

Examples

Example 1

This example defines the content of an HTML document to be in the French language.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "https://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd">
<html lang="fr"> 
<head>
  <title>document écrit en français</title>
  <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
</head>  
<body>     
	...document écrit en français...   
</body>
</html>

Example 2

This example defines the content of an XHTML 1.0 document with content type of text/html to be in the French language. Both the lang and xml:lang attributes are specified in order to meet the requirements of XHTML and provide backward compatibility with HTML.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" 
  "https://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" lang="fr" xml:lang="fr">
<head>
  <title>document écrit en français</title>
  <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
</head>
<body> 
...document écrit en français...      
</body>
</html>  

Example 3

This example defines the content of an XHTML 1.1 document with content type of application/xhtml+xml to be in the French language. Only the xml:lang attribute is specified.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN" 
   "https://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="fr">
<head>
  <title>document écrit en français</title>
	<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="application/xhtml+xml; charset=utf-8" />
</head>
<body> 
	...document écrit en français... 
</body>
</html>

Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.

Tests

Procedure

  1. Examine the html element of the document.
  2. Check that the html element has a lang and/or xml:lang attribute.
  3. Check that the value of the lang attribute conforms to BCP 47: Tags for the Identification of Languages or its successor and reflects the primary language used by the Web page.

Expected Results

  • The above checks are all true.