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languages and syntax

by stefp (Vicar)
on Oct 22, 2007 at 10:18 UTC ( #646413=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.
in thread What's wrong with Perl 6?

Should not we talk of the Djikstra hypothesis for computer environments instead of Sapir-Whorf? The tools we use have a profound (and devious!) influence on our thinking habits, and, therefore, on our thinking abilities. in this paper. What I like about Perl is that it takes malleability of the natural language without aping its surface syntaxe. Unlike Fortran and Cobol who are not malleable enough and take from natural language only a few words used as keywords.

Perl 6 is getting rid of the Perl 5 ossification to give a new meaning to malleability. Think Perl 6 macros for example. Introspection is proper to human thought, it should be the rules in programming languages. So the second Djikstra hypothesis, is wrong when you take it for its spirit : Projects promoting programming in "natural language" are intrinsically doomed to fail.

Speaking of syntax, the second language to impress me for its concision is Haskell, that I discovered thru pugs. Like Larry Wall did for Perl, the conceptors of haskell did put a lot of thought to get it right. It seens that most language designers don't think much about language syntax or for pedagogical reason stick to the convention of mainstream languages.

In the late eighties, Gosling, when designing NeWS, an innovating window system at the time, picked the postfixed syntax of PostScript with the clean semantic of the PostScript imaging system, dooming NeWS from the start. PostScript is intended to be generated by programs, not by programmers. Later, by mostly picking the C syntax, Gosling found a public for Java but, in my opinion, made it uninteresting from the start even if the idea of portability thru a virtual machine was brillant even if, in the long term, it did not panned out as well as expected. But this is due to refusing to make the language open source in due time, causing incompatible implementations and libraries.

-- stefp

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