multilingual notmuch (and Content-Language)

Servilio Afre Puentes afrepues at
Wed Mar 21 08:05:58 PDT 2018

On Sun, Mar 18 2018, Daniel Kahn Gillmor wrote:

> describes a Content-Language:
> header. describes
> a multipart/multilingual Content-Type.
> notmuch currently uses xapian with a hard-coded English stemmer which
> works great for me as a monolingual American, but limits the
> applicability of notmuch to Anglophiles (people who speak English).
> That makes me sad.
> AIUI, xapian is pretty much committed to being a single-language
> indexer.

Have you seen the different stemmers it already has? Reference:

> But i just wanted to point out that it's possible that we
> could be smarter about this in notmuch, and wanted to make a space for
> possible design discussion.
> a few concrete suggestions (intended as brainstorming, feedback welcome):
>  * if we know our index expects english, and we have a message part that
>    *is not* english (e.g. Content-Language: es), we could avoid indexing
>    that part.

I'd prefer leaving the choice of default stemmer to the user.

>  * during indexing, we could add a property to each message when we
>    discover a Content-Language header.  this would let you do something
>    like "notmuch search property:lang=es" to find all messages
>    explicitly tagged as spanish.
>  * (pretty crazy) If we're willing to search in another language we
>    could add an additional xapian database configured that language, and
>    we could index identified parts in that language.

Do we need to have separate DB if we can use different stemmers dynamically?

>  * for text parts without a Content-Language: header, we could do some
>    concrete heuristics to guess the language.  For example, choose the
>    1000 most popular words for each language we might know about, and
>    look for their presence in the text.  Choose the language that is
>    most heavily represented, and store it in the index as a property.
>    this could be combined with the suggestions above.

+1 for heuristics.

> what do you think?  what ideas are missing from the branstorm above?  I'd
> love to hear from people with multilingual mailboxes about how we might
> be able to make notmuch work better for them.

As an actively bilingual person (English and Spanish), I love this idea.



Servilio Afre Puentes
Programmer/Analyst, SHARCNET project
Compute Ontario |
Compute/Calcul Canada |

905-525-9140, x22540

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