In order to hyphenate text, TeX must have hyphenation patterns and, since these patterns can be loaded only by iniTeX, the choice of which patterns to load must be made when the format is created.
The hyphenation patterns for American English are stored in the file
hyphen.tex; LaTeX 2.09 always loaded this file when its
format was made.
With LaTeX2e it is possible to configure which hyphenation patterns
are to be loaded into the format. When iniTeX is processing
latex.ltx, it looks for a file called
hyphen.cfg; this file can
be used to control which hyphenation patterns are loaded. If a file
hyphen.cfg cannot be found then iniTeX will load the file
hyphen.ltx loads the file
hyphen.tex if it can find it;
otherwise it stops with an error since a format with no hyphenation
patterns is not very useful. It then sets
\language=0 and it sets
\righthyphenmin=3, which are
needed for American English.
Thus, if you want any other patterns to be loaded then you should
create a file
hyphen.cfg. For each language for which you wish to
load hyphenation patterns this file should:
Note. The hyphenation files that are read in should only
set the hyphenation tables for the language, using the commands
\patterns. In particular they should make no
assignments to the lowercase/uppercase tables (
\uccode) and should not make any global command definitions to be
used after the file has been read. Unfortunately some older
hyphenation files do contain such settings; thus they are
incompatible with the mechanisms LaTeX uses to ensure
independence of input and output encodings.
After this the file
\languageto its default value;
\righthyphenminto the correct values for this default language.
There are packages available, such as `french', that can help you with
this configuration. The `babel' collection contains many examples of
setting up a multi-lingual LaTeX format. The documentation in
lthyphen.dtx (the source file for
hyphen.ltx) also contains some
[We intend in a future release of LaTeX to provide a set of standard commands for use in configuring hyphenation.]