[whatwg] Spellchecking mark III

Mikko Rantalainen mikko.rantalainen at peda.net
Wed Jan 21 01:15:34 PST 2009

Peter Kasting wrote:
> 2009/1/20 Mikko Rantalainen <mikko.rantalainen at peda.net>
>> I agree. I think that specifying the spellcheck attribute would be a
>> mistake. It allows only forcing the automatic spell checking on or off
>> but it doesn't help a bit to allow mixing different languages on a
>> single page.
> I don't see how the second sentence is an argument for the first.

If the browser does not know the language of the content, how on earth
is it supposed to *correctly* spellcheck it? I'm daily hitting a
situation where browser is trying to spellcheck content with incorrect
language. I've toggled such automatic spellchecker off and those will
stay off until correct language is detected.

My second sentence was trying to argument that page author has no
business forcing the spellchecking on if the page author cannot force
the spellchecking language! Especially for a case where the page
contains a mix of multiple languages.

>> Just specify that spell checking must follow the content language.
> How many pages specify the content language?  AFAIK the farthest most
> authors get is to specify the encoding, and even that is frequently done
> wrong, and browsers have all kinds of crazy heuristics to try and
> second-guess authors.
> This seems like it would make spellchecking function very poorly on the web
> at large, whereas adding the spellcheck attribute at worst would not harm
> anyone.

I'm aware that many web pages do not specify content language. There
aren't many web pages forcing the spellchecking on or off, either.
Forcing a spellchecking on with incorrect language would harm the user!

It really does not make any sense to ever force spellchecking if the
language that the spellchecker uses is the incorrect one. The current
"spellcheck" attribute does not define any language and it seems that
the page author has no way to know if the spell checking should really
be disabled or not.

My point is that if the page does not specify the language then the
behavior should be explicitly undefined. This should not be changed. On
the other hand, if the content language is explicitly defined, then the
user agent has the required knowledge to decide if the spellchecking
should be enabled or disabled. There's no need for the "spellcheck"

Make specifying the language the *only* accepted method for triggering
the spell checking. Specify that any unknown language must not be
spellchecked automatically. Then you automatically have a method for
forcing the automatic spell checking off and in addition to that you
have some incentive to define correct language for the page.

If we can persuade content authors to specify the correct content
language, I believe that in the future there will be *other* benefits,
too. For example, automatic hyphenation would improve typographic
quality of web pages but automatic hyphenation is impossible unless you
know the language of the content.


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