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Tulane University Digital Library Metadata Guidelines

These guidelines were approved by the Digital Production Review Committee in September 2019.

Basics about Languages

Using Language Elements

Language is a top-level element in many metadata schema, including MODS. It is also available as an attribute for many other elements inside of a schema. Language codes at the top level describe the languages included in the resource being described. Language codes at the sub-element or attribute level instead describe the languages those elements are written in. This allows the flexibility necessary to describe an object written in Latin with a record written in English and Spanish, and properly annotate which languages are used for the various parts. The language column in your data should include information about the language of the content of your resource. If you are using multiple languages in your records, your columns should indicate those languages in their own titles. Items which contain multiple languages may also be described using an additional column which should be titled "Language Notes".


Formatting Top-Level Language Elements

Language is required when applicable and repeatable.

  • Enter the three-letter language code from ISO 639-2 for the language used within the resource.
  • Examples: “eng”; “fre”; “spa”; “ger”; “ita”.
  • Use all lowercase letters without punctuation.
  • Scripting will transform this data to provide the authority, authority URI, value URI, or other data required by the schema in use.
  • Display settings will transform the language codes into terms.
  • RDA 6.11 may be helpful in determining what language to assign. Language notes formatted according to RDA 7.12 are also permitted in an additional field.

Languages in MODS

<language> is a container element; the actual language values are recorded in the subelement <languageTerm>.

If the content of the resource is in more than one language, the objectPart attribute for <language> is used and the <language> element is repeated.

<language> may also be expressed in conjunction with each element in a MODS encoding by means of the xml:lang and/or langattributes to designate the language used in the metadata value; see the section on language in Attributes Used Throughout the MODS Schema for more information.

The subelement <languageOfCataloging> under <recordInfo> is used to give the language of the metadata in the record as a whole. It designates the language of the metadata record, while this <language> element designates the language of the resource.

Examples of Language Encoded in MODS

Single language for entire item
     <languageTerm type="text">English</languageTerm>
     <languageTerm type="code" authority="iso639-2b">eng</languageTerm>

Spanish book with introduction in English

<language objectPart="introduction">
     <languageTerm type="text">English</languageTerm>
     <languageTerm type="code" authority="iso639-2b">eng</languageTerm>
<language objectPart="main text">
     <languageTerm type="text">Spanish</languageTerm>
     <languageTerm type="code" authority="iso639-2b>spa</languageTerm>

Noting the language of the text for the language term

<language objectPart="introduction">
     <languageTerm type="text" lang="eng">English</languageTerm>
     <languageTerm type="code" authority="iso639-2b">eng</languageTerm>
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