When I use multiple languages with Babel (e.g., with \usepackage[german,french,latin,english]{babel}), I realize that english is the default language because it is the last listed, but what does Babel do when it encounters a non-English word? How does it hyphenate it? Does it look for the word in, in my case, a German, French, or Latin hyphenation dictionary? If so, what if the same word is in multiple dictionaries, although it may be syllabicated differently? How would it hyphenate it then?

Is there an order of precedence is the multilingual documents for hyphenation purposes?

  • TeX can't read and doesn't understand languages; it just typesets whatever you pass to it using the rules you specify. If you have, say, a German word, use \foreignlanguage{german}{Götterfunken}. By the way, ngerman should be preferable, as it conforms to the new orthography for German. – egreg Apr 12 '14 at 22:34
  • @egrag: Thanks, but I'm typesetting 19th century German. Should ngerman still be used for that? – Geremia Apr 12 '14 at 22:50
  • Oh, no! In that case the old orthography is definitely what you need. – egreg Apr 12 '14 at 23:15
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As far as I understand it, Babel will hyphenate every word using the rules for the current (declared) language. It doesn't look for the word in any dictionary, in the usual sense, but applies rules according to hyphenation patterns which are specific to each language. These are described in files such as frhyph.tex, dehyphn.tex or dehypht.tex.

  • I don't have the files frhyph.tex, dehyphn.tex or dehypht.tex. Where should they be located? – Geremia Apr 12 '14 at 22:51
  • They're in MiKTeX2.9\tex\generic\hyphen. For TeX Live, they're in texmf-dist\text\generic\hyphen. – Bernard Apr 12 '14 at 23:04
  • @Geremia If you have a fairly recent TeX distribution, you don't need to worry about the hyphenation files; they are already included in the format you're using. – egreg Apr 12 '14 at 23:16
  • @egreg: Yes, I have bleeding-edge TeXLive. – Geremia Apr 13 '14 at 1:24

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