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The reason I want to do it is that I want to set brazilian language in babel and I want to use xy-pic package, but I have to use it inside an environment in which the shorthands are off.

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Could you provide a MWE (minimum working example)? It would make it a lot easier to understand your question. –  Nathanael Farley Jan 29 '13 at 14:19
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The shorthands are described in the documentation of babel. –  Ulrike Fischer Jan 29 '13 at 14:22
    
Try Portuguese portuges, portuguese, brazilian, brazil. As Ulrike mentioned from a console type texdoc babel for the manual. –  Yiannis Lazarides Jan 29 '13 at 14:26
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1 Answer

The shorthand defined for Portuguese (of Portugal and of Brazil) all use the " character and it's this character to watch for.


Let's see a list for some of the languages supported by Babel.

Languages with no shorthand

  • Croatian, English (any variety), Indonesian, Hebrew, Interlingua, Irish, Lower Sorbian, Malaysian, North Sami, Romanian, Scottish, Welsh

Languages with only " as defined shorthand character

  • Albanian
  • Bulgarian
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • Finnish
  • German (old and new orthography, also Austrian)
  • Icelandic
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese (also Brazilian)
  • Russian
  • Serbian (with Latin script)
  • Slovene
  • Swedish
  • Ukrainian
  • Upper Sorbian

Languages with other shorthand characters

Basque

  • "
  • '
  • ~

Breton

  • :
  • ;
  • ?
  • !

Catalan

  • "
  • '
  • `

(Note: ' and ` can be deactivated at loading time.)

Czech

  • "
  • -

Esperanto

  • ^

Estonian

  • "
  • ~

French (all varieties)

  • :
  • ;
  • ?
  • !

Galician

  • "
  • .
  • '
  • ~
  • <
  • >

Greek

  • ~

Hungarian

  • `

Kurmanji

  • ^

Latin

  • "
  • ^
  • =

Slovak

  • "
  • ^
  • '
  • -

Spanish

  • "
  • .
  • <
  • >
  • '

(Note: some of them can be activated or deactivated with options at load time.)

Turkish

  • :
  • !
  • =

Final note

In many cases it's quite safe to turn off some or all of the shorthands, if direct UTF-8 input can substitute them.

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Why can't we disable all shorthands by just saying \begin{otherlanguage}{english}...\end{otherlanguage} when necessary? –  AlexG Jan 29 '13 at 16:36
    
@AlexG No. The shorthands do nothing, but the shorthand characters remain active. –  egreg Jan 29 '13 at 16:53
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Nice table. May I copy it in the babel docs? Babel 3.9 will provide a package option to set which shorthands do you want to activate (now in beta: ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/exptl/babel-beta). –  Javier Bezos Jan 29 '13 at 18:19
    
@JavierBezos Of course you can! I'm confident it's accurate, but you might doublecheck it. –  egreg Jan 29 '13 at 18:21
    
@egreg Thank you! –  Javier Bezos Jan 29 '13 at 18:47
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