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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 274 pages
ISBN 9781906966072
RRP £9.95 ($14.95)

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8.1.1 Overview

Locale support is automatically initialized when a database cluster is created using initdb. initdb will initialize the database cluster with the locale setting of its execution environment by default, so if your system is already set to use the locale that you want in your database cluster then there is nothing else you need to do. If you want to use a different locale (or you are not sure which locale your system is set to), you can instruct initdb exactly which locale to use by specifying the --locale option. For example:

initdb --locale=sv_SE

This example for Unix systems sets the locale to Swedish (sv) as spoken in Sweden (SE). Other possibilities might be en_US (U.S. English) and fr_CA (French Canadian). If more than one character set can be used for a locale then the specifications can take the form language_territory.codeset. For example, fr_BE.UTF-8 represents the French language (fr) as spoken in Belgium (BE), with a UTF-8 character set encoding.

What locales are available on your system under what names depends on what was provided by the operating system vendor and what was installed. On most Unix systems, the command locale -a will provide a list of available locales. Windows uses more verbose locale names, such as German_Germany or Swedish_Sweden.1252, but the principles are the same.

Occasionally it is useful to mix rules from several locales, e.g., use English collation rules but Spanish messages. To support that, a set of locale subcategories exist that control only certain aspects of the localization rules:

LC_COLLATE String sort order
LC_CTYPE Character classification (What is a letter? Its upper-case equivalent?)
LC_MESSAGES Language of messages
LC_MONETARY Formatting of currency amounts
LC_NUMERIC Formatting of numbers
LC_TIME Formatting of dates and times
The category names translate into names of initdb options to override the locale choice for a specific category. For instance, to set the locale to French Canadian, but use U.S. rules for formatting currency, use initdb --locale=fr_CA --lc-monetary=en_US. If you want the system to behave as if it had no locale support, use the special locale C or POSIX. Some locale categories must have their values fixed when the database is created. You can use different settings for different databases, but once a database is created, you cannot change them for that database anymore. LC_COLLATE and LC_CTYPE are these type of categories. They affect the sort order of indexes, so they must be kept fixed, or indexes on text columns would become corrupt. The default values for these categories are determined when initdb is run, and those values are used when new databases are created, unless specified otherwise in the CREATE DATABASE command. The other locale categories can be changed whenever desired by setting the server configuration parameters that have the same name as the locale categories (see section 4.10.2 Locale and Formatting for details). The values that are chosen by initdb are actually only written into the configuration file ‘postgresql.conf’ to serve as defaults when the server is started. If you disable these assignments from ‘postgresql.conf’ then the server will inherit the settings from its execution environment. Note that the locale behavior of the server is determined by the environment variables seen by the server, not by the environment of any client. Therefore, be careful to configure the correct locale settings before starting the server. A consequence of this is that if client and server are set up in different locales, messages might appear in different languages depending on where they originated.

Note: When we speak of inheriting the locale from the execution environment, this means the following on most operating systems: For a given locale category, say the collation, the following environment variables are consulted in this order until one is found to be set: LC_ALL, LC_COLLATE (or the variable corresponding to the respective category), LANG. If none of these environment variables are set then the locale defaults to C.

Some message localization libraries also look at the environment variable LANGUAGE which overrides all other locale settings for the purpose of setting the language of messages. If in doubt, please refer to the documentation of your operating system, in particular the documentation about gettext.

To enable messages to be translated to the user's preferred language, NLS must have been selected at build time (configure --enable-nls). All other locale support is built in automatically.
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