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Note: Please, excuse me for this long email. It should be read in HTML mode
(i use colors, styles...)

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You could find below an real example from the OpenArchive server of the
American Memory. (http://memory.loc.gov)

This a map of the Canada/Louisiana created in 1674 by Louis Joliet.

There is 2 titles, the original in french, and an alternative in english.
Notes, subject and medium are in english.
There is also the element <language> with the value "fre".
So i guess that the language of this map is french, but nothing to tell the
language of the metadata.

I looked carrefully at MODS schema Version 1.2 (June 13), an i found an
"xml:lang" attribute for the following elements :
  a.. mods/abstract
  b.. mods/tableOfContents
  c.. mods/note
  d.. mods/accessCondition
  e.. mods/physicalDescription/note
but nothing for the followings elements :
  a.. mods/titleinfo ?
  b.. mods/titleinfo/title
  c.. mods/titleinfo/partName ?
  d.. mods/physicalDescription/extent
  e.. mods/subject
  f.. mods/subject/topic
  g.. mods/subject/geographic
  h.. mods/subject/hierarchicalGeographic/country
  i.. mods/cartographics/scale

So i think that the "xml:lang" attribute should be added in a near future to
theses elements.

But why an element mods/language with a "restriction" different than the
attribute xml:lang ?
May be it's more simple to use the same definition for the language of the
document and for the language of some metadata (notes, abtract...).

Yves Pratter

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Extract of the document where there lang attributes could be used (long
form):
<mods>

    <titleInfo>
        <title xml:lang="fr">Nouvelle decouverte de plusieurs nations dans
la Nouvelle France en l'annee 1673 et 1674</title>
    </titleInfo>
    <titleInfo type="alternative">
        <title xml:lang="en">Joliet's map, 1674.</title>
    </titleInfo>



    <!-- snip -->

    <language authority="iso639-2b">fre</language>

    <physicalDescription>
        <extent xml:lang="en">1 map : col. ; 40 x 52 cm.</extent>
    </physicalDescription>

    <note xml:lang="en">From the Jesuit Relations, vol. 59, p. facing
86.</note>
    <note xml:lang="en">8 x 10 film negative available in G&amp;M Reading
Room.</note>
    <note xml:lang="en">Part of the Missisippi River exhibit.</note>
    <note xml:lang="en">Facsimile.</note>
    <note xml:lang="en">Original version: [S.l. : s.n., 1674]</note>
    <note xml:lang="en">Available also through the Library of Congress web
site as a raster image.</note>

    <!-- scale element is in english or this is a bug of conversion from
MARC to MODS ? -->
    <cartographics>
        <scale>Scale [ca. 9,000,000].</scale>
    </cartographics>

    <subject authority="lcsh">
        <geographic xml:lang="en">North America</geographic>
        <topic xml:lang="en">Maps</topic>
        <topic xml:lang="en">Early works to 1800</topic>
        <topic xml:lang="en">Facsimiles</topic>
    </subject>

    <!-- snip -->

    <subject>
        <hierarchicalGeographic>
            <country xml:lang="en">North America.</country>
        </hierarchicalGeographic>
    </subject>


    <!-- snip -->

</mods>



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Extract of the document where there lang attributes could be used (shorter
form):
<!-- The lang attribute is added to the mods elements to tell that all the
metadata are in english, excep some few -->
<mods xml:lang="en">

    <titleInfo>
        <title xml:lang="fr">Nouvelle decouverte de plusieurs nations dans
la Nouvelle France en l'annee 1673 et 1674</title>
    </titleInfo>
    <titleInfo type="alternative">
        <titleJoliet's map, 1674.</title>
    </titleInfo>



    <!-- snip -->

    <!-- proposal to use the same definition for the language (attribute) as
other elements

    <language authority="iso639-2b">fre</language>
    -->
    <documentLanguage xml:lang="fr"/>

    <physicalDescription>
        <extent>1 map : col. ; 40 x 52 cm.</extent>
    </physicalDescription>

    <note>From the Jesuit Relations, vol. 59, p. facing 86.</note>
    <note>8 x 10 film negative available in G&amp;M Reading Room.</note>
    <note>Part of the Missisippi River exhibit.</note>
    <note>Facsimile.</note>
    <note>Original version: [S.l. : s.n., 1674]</note>
    <note>Available also through the Library of Congress web site as a
raster image.</note>

    <!-- scale element is in english or this is a bug of conversion from
MARC to MODS ? -->
    <cartographics>
        <scale>Scale [ca. 9,000,000].</scale>
    </cartographics>

    <subject authority="lcsh">
        <geographic>North America</geographic>
        <topic>Maps</topic>
        <topic>Early works to 1800</topic>
        <topic>Facsimiles</topic>
    </subject>

    <!-- snip -->

    <subject>
        <hierarchicalGeographic>
            <country>North America.</country>
        </hierarchicalGeographic>
    </subject>


    <!-- snip -->

</mods>


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References :
HTML version : http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3300.ct000655
OAI/MODS     :
http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/oai2_0?verb=GetRecord&metadataPrefix=mods&iden
tifier=oai%3Alcoa1.loc.gov%3Aloc.gmd%2Fg3300.ct000655


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PS:
May be there is a mistake in theses elements (bug of parsing from MARC to
MODS conversion) ?

<publicationInfo>
    <place>[S.l</place>
    <dateIssued>1896-1901]</dateIssued>
</publicationInfo>