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Re: [probably OT] Perl in Natural Semantic Metalanguage

by allolex (Curate)
on Sep 23, 2003 at 06:48 UTC ( #293416=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to [probably OT] Perl in Natural Semantic Metalanguage

Yes, I proposed a slight formalization of NSM to Cliff Goddard in a class he taught a few years ago, but the appeal of NSM to many is precisely it's ability to express quite complicated and culturally-embedded concepts in less formal terms.

NSM has gone to great lengths to discover universal semantic primes. This granted, its main strength seems to be in the fact that by deciding to apply NSM, the linguist limits the amount of processing he or she has to perform to describe language meaning. And since it is in the spirit of a metalanguage to make description clearer and easier, I propose the expansion of the morphosyntactic and pragmatic constraints on NSM descriptions suggested in (and by) this paper. By creating rules apart from lexical constraints, NSM can also be a useful and productive method of doing semantics even for novice practitioners.
(Davison, Damon Allen. 2001. A Reassessment of German ``Anger'' Verbs. Unpublished term paper from the 2001 LSA Institute.)

At first guess, I would say that neither Perl nor any other programming language is complicated enough to require such description. Or in other words, Perl is already formalized, so such a description is not necessary. I know the primes are tempting, but Perl's "semantic primes" are the list of operations Perl can do, which should ultimately the C vocabulary. I think a lot of the monks are interested in having specific sigils for operations they use a lot, but Perl's best feature, IMHO, is its ability to let me express myself in non-prime terms.

What would be interesting to me is a schematic breakdown of the syntax-semantics "interface" in Perl's various contexts, e.g . showing why efficiency for the programmer and the need for unambiguous constructions promote the growth of Perl's lexicon, like in the case of "==", "ne", "eq", etc.

You might be interested in having a look at Cliff's 1998 introduction to Semantics. He discusses NSM in a lot more detail there.


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