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Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.

by princepawn (Parson)
on Oct 12, 2007 at 19:41 UTC ( #644531=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re^2: What's wrong with Perl 6?
in thread What's wrong with Perl 6?

Syntax is just skin
Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought. As a hobbyist in the J programming language I disagree that syntax is just skin... sure they could all compile down into the same parse tree, but, but... ummm.. well, I still disagree :)


Carter's compass: I know I'm on the right track when by deleting something, I'm adding functionality


Comment on Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.
Re: Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.
by TimToady (Parson) on Oct 12, 2007 at 20:52 UTC

    Well, I don't know about you, but I value my skin highly, and prefer it not to have warts. Nevertheless, I don't confuse my skin with my soul.

    By the way, linguistic determinism is not just about syntax. If it is to be a limiting factor, it must be about a language as a whole, including phonology, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, lexicon, and if you're exceptionally lucky, a culture. As someone who liked to play football when I was younger, I can vouch for the fact that I did a lot of non-linguistic thinking when running down the field deciding how to fake out the pass coverage. I certainly don't believe in the strong Whorf-Sapir hypothesis. And as to whether J proves or disproves your point, much of that language is ultimately derived from mathematics, and even in that realm the algebraicists will disagree with the geometers over how much linguistics has to do with mathematical thought.

    But what really has me curious is why you quote Carter's Compass in your signature but refuse to let me apply it to Perl 5. :-)

      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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