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Re: The Germanic language form

by blazar (Canon)
on Jun 01, 2007 at 11:02 UTC ( #618692=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to The Germanic language form

Iíve just been on holiday and a few discussions with some Finnish Swedes got me wondering. Apparently Swedish is much more similar to English than Finnish. Finnish has some really strange grammatical constructions apparently.

Indeed, it's a Finno-Ugric language, that is, it's not even Indo-European unlike most other languages spoken in Europe, including both Germanic and Italic ones which are thus much more similar each other. English itself is considered a Germanic one, although it has had many many influences.

What has this got to do with Perl? Well, the question is. Would modern programming languages have been any different in their structure if they had been entirely developed by Finnish only speaking Finns, for example.

Probably so. But not only Perl. I would say that influences would have been clear in most high level enough programming languages. Of course in Perl natural language principles are pervasive, thus it would be interesting to hear $Larry's opinion on this question. One thing that I know is that I'm a big fan of RPN and asked something about it p6l; $Larry's reply included:

Nope. I used to think RPN was completely unnatural. Then I started learning Japanese, and now I not so sure am. :-)

Interesting, ain't it?!?

Also, it is clear that the British are no more similar to the Germans, Swedish, Norwegians, Danish and Austrians than the Spanish, Italians and French. So what was it that drew us to the Germanic language form?

I think it's clear enough it's only because of cutural circumstances: most programming languages were born in English speaking countries. I bet Klingon ones are strongly imperative! Klingon geeks despise event driven petaQ: they drive events, not the other way round. And their programs don't have loops. They aim straight to the heart: they often kill and rarely die, but when they do, it's with honour.

What is superior about this form and can we learn from this when developing programming languages?

Well as a native Italian speaker, I appreciate the richness of my own mother tongue and for many things I favour it over English. One thing I really really love of the latter though is the facility with which one syntactical element can be made into another one: an adjective into a noun or vice versa, a verb into a noun and vice versa, and so on. While writing my thesis in Italian I had to write something along the lines of "number theoretic property", but there is absolutely no way to express the same concept that concisely, that is, without a longer paraphrasis: because we have "Teoria dei Numeri", but we can't easily make that into a single adjective. I think Perl got this right in many respects, and Perl 6 even more so.


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Re^2: The Germanic language form
by clinton (Priest) on Jun 01, 2007 at 11:20 UTC
    I'm English speaking, but live in Spain, and have spent the last two and a half years learning Spanish.

    The British are almost typically embarrassed about their language - they think it is clunky, and nowhere near as romantic / beautiful / expressive as French / Italian / Spanish.

    What I've realised is that, because English has very simple grammar, it is easy to learn basic English, while the Romance languages present more of a barrier to pick up.

    However, while learning Spanish, I've realised what I love about English - the enormous expressive vocabulary. This is my opinion, I can't be certain, but my experience is that native English speakers use a much larger lexicon of words in their everyday language than a native Spanish/etc speaker.

    For this reason, to speak English WELL, is very difficult - it's not that there are rules you can understand, you have to learn each word separately.

    Oh dear....

    I think English may be PHP.

    That can't be right!

      What I've realised is that, because English has very simple grammar, it is easy to learn basic English, while the Romance languages present more of a barrier to pick up.

      This is certainly true, but then one should analize what the added complexity is up to. Latin for example is even more complex than Italian, but its linguistic features make for a very high degree of expressiveness for very short and concise phrases. Indeed there's a track of this in commonly used idiomatic forms and cultural references even today, e.g:

      • "do ut des": I give you something to obtain something in change from you;
      • 17 is considered an unlucky number because it's written like XVII as a roman number, which in turn is the anagram of "vixi": "I have lived", but with such an exact and strong bent that it's really "I have terminated living", thus "I'm dead".

      Latin has declensions. *NIX shells have a moderate amount to, in that nouns (variables) do not have a sigil as they're defined, thus used as a subject, but they do have one when they're used, that is when they play the role of a complement.

        its linguistic features make for a very high degree of expressiveness

        I couldn't agree with you more. The form of expression is different - I find that the Italic languages use the same words with a different order, or a different preposition, or just a different context to achieve the same thing that we do in English by having an entirely separate word.

        Caveat: obviously, these are not absolute rules, but rather tendencies

        clint

      An interesting comment but which is not connected directly to english IMHO. I am a french living in Madrid, Spain(14 years already), and previously had been living in Michigan (7 years) and Southampton (1 year). I think on the average that british people were using a larger (and more precise) vocabulary for daily activities (meaning taking out specialized contexts). But the average american daily vocabulary was much poorer about equal I would say with the spanish or french "daily vocabulary". Maybe the continuous rise of the use of specialized "slangs" borrowing lots of english words means in the long run an impoverishment of native non-english "daily word pools".

      cheers --stephan

      This is my opinion, I can't be certain, but my experience is that native English speakers use a much larger lexicon of words in their everyday language than a native Spanish/etc speaker.

      I don't know about everyday language, but English definitely does have a massive vocabulary compared to most contemporary languages. Through the centuries, languages have been getting simpler, but English is the odd one out. It's constant borrowing of words over the last thousand years or so has made it comparable to far more ancient languages in complexity.


      "There is no shame in being self-taught, only in not trying to learn in the first place." -- Atrus, Myst: The Book of D'ni.

      English certainly doesn't have nearly as much morpho-syntactic complexity (i.e. complicated verb paradigms, noun-adjective agreement, &c.), but that's largely because it has undergone extensive phonological weakening at the end of words--that is, the morphemes that did all the agreement stuff have been slowly disappearing over the last millenium or so due to regular sound change. English syntax still has some fairly difficult constructions. Consider Unbounded Dependency Constructions:

      Who*1 does Kim*2 think the coworkers want management to replace her*2 with *1?

      Kim*2 is the logical object of "replace" and Who*1 is the logical object of "with," but they are on completely opposite ends of the sentence. Moreover, the sentence can be extended in principle for as long as we want:

      Who*1 does Kim*2 think Carol hopes Jim says... the coworkers want management to replace her*2 with *1?

      The computational endeavor of detecting when an unbounded dependency construction is being used and of linking up the right fillers (Who*1 and Kim*2 here) with the right traces (her*2 and *1 here) is extremely non-trivial. Also, check out a grammar of the English Language in your spare time ;)

      We don't have many conjugations &c., but we have weirdo word-order rules all over the place. Swiss German, Dutch, and Norwegian have even some weirder stuff going on.

        The examples that you have given are now considered acceptable spoken English, but not formal English (although that is fast approaching).

        They could be written more formally as:

        Who does Kim think the coworkers want management to replace her with?

        With whom does Kim think that her coworkers would like management to replace her?

        and
        Who does Kim think Carol hopes Jim says the coworkers want management to replace her with?

        With whom does Kim think that Carol hopes that Jim says that her coworkers would like management to replace her

        The grammar in the formal versions is more closely related to Latin grammar, but it introduces a stiffness into the construction that appears to be a dying trend. Forms that, 20 years ago, would have been considered errors, are now accepted practice and come more easily to the tongue, such as:

        Ending a sentence with a preposition: Who ... with as opposed to With whom
        and
        The split infinitive: They could be more formally written as... as opposed to They could be written more formally as...

        ...and I am pleased that it is so. I love the flexibility of English, the fact that it is so adaptable, but it does make parsing it hell!

        update jporter correctly pointed out that this is not a split infinitive

        Clint

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