All supported character sets are supported in Emacs buffers whenever multibyte characters are enabled; there is no need to select a particular language in order to display its characters in an Emacs buffer. However, it is important to select a language environment in order to set various defaults. The language environment really represents a choice of preferred script (more or less) rather that a choice of language.
The language environment controls which coding systems to recognize when reading text (see section Recognizing Coding Systems). This applies to files, incoming mail, netnews, and any other text you read into Emacs. It may also specify the default coding system to use when you create a file. Each language environment also specifies a default input method.
The way to select a language environment is with the command M-x set-language-environment. It makes no difference which buffer is current when you use this command, because the effects apply globally to the Emacs session. The supported language environments include:
Chinese-BIG5, Chinese-CNS, Chinese-GB, Cyrillic-Alternativnyj, Cyrillic-ISO, Cyrillic-KOI8, Devanagari, English, Ethiopic, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Latin-1, Latin-2, Latin-3, Latin-4, Latin-5, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese.
Some operating systems let you specify the language you are using by setting locale environment variables. Emacs handles one common special case of this: if your locale name for character types contains the string `8859-n', Emacs automatically selects the corresponding language environment.
To display information about the effects of a certain language
environment lang-env, use the command C-h L lang-env
describe-language-environment). This tells you which
languages this language environment is useful for, and lists the
character sets, coding systems, and input methods that go with it. It
also shows some sample text to illustrate scripts used in this language
environment. By default, this command describes the chosen language
You can customize any language environment with the normal hook
set-language-environment-hook. The command
set-language-environment runs that hook after setting up the new
language environment. The hook functions can test for a specific
language environment by checking the variable
Before it starts to set up the new language environment,
set-language-environment first runs the hook
exit-language-environment-hook. This hook is useful for undoing
customizations that were made with
For instance, if you set up a special key binding in a specific language
set-language-environment-hook, you should set
exit-language-environment-hook to restore the normal binding
for that key.
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