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Re: Re: Re: don't { use Perl }

by Anonymous Monk
on Jun 10, 2002 at 15:05 UTC ( #173176=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: Re: don't { use Perl }
in thread don't { use Perl }

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (on linguistic determism) has been either refuted outright (in its strong version), or shown to be essentially devoid of content (weak version). In terms of programming languages, you do not have to use (or to have ever even learned) a functional programming language to apply the concepts of functional programming (and s/functional/OO/). The programming language you choose (meaning general purpose, not specialized niche languages here) doesn't limit the solution set so much as it limits the solution set that can be expressed naturally in that language. Think about it: C is not an OO language, nor does it have hashes as a primary type; but with it you can write new languages that do.

If anything, the Sapir-Whorf hyposthesis is simply backwards: What and how we think shapes our language. The Innuit may have more words for snow (but nowhere near the 40 or so claimed by some reports, more like 7 to 10), but not more concepts or recognitions of different kinds of snow. We just require more descriptive phrases where their language uses simple or compound words. When differences in snow types are a more important part of daily life, one might expect such huffman-like encodings to be reflected in the language.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: don't { use Perl }
by ignatz (Vicar) on Jun 10, 2002 at 15:59 UTC
    It seems to me that theories of the spoken word have little value in the arena of programming languages. Language theory assumes that the speaker and the listener are on the same level: they both speak the same language. Programming languages are advanced constructs translated into the language of a very fast, restricted yet capable idiot.
      Not at all. Just because my program is translated into a machine language to run does not mean the machine is the only listener, nor even the primary listener, nor even a listener at all in any reasonable application of the word. The listeners of programming languages are humans. To think otherwise is to fail to understand why we would bother to create higher languages above the machine level in the first place.
        The speakers of high level programming languages are humans. But they still have to follow lots of silly rules - because otherwise they aren't understood. Not by their fellow humans, but by machines.


        We are incapable of speaking in the native language of computers to any usable degree. A programming language's purpose is to facilitate speaking to machines. When another programmer looks at it, he as looking at it as another speaker of the language, but not as its target. It is a one way language, since its purpose is entirely to manipulate machines. The fact that the relationship between speaker and listener, where each truly does not understand the language of the other, makes spoken language theory useless.
Re: Re: Re: Re: don't { use Perl }
by mdillon (Priest) on Jun 10, 2002 at 17:57 UTC
    You're wrong about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, at least inasmuch as you imply that it is so generally considered disproved. This is still an active area of debate and experimental research in some lingustic circles (specifically, those focusing on "embodied" cognitive linguistics, a.k.a. "West coast" cog. ling.), cf. Language and Thought (D. Slobin).
      Perhaps I was a little broad with my pen. The SW hypothesis is generally considered refuted in its strong form. Its weak form continues to be investigated and does raise interesting questions in the cognitive sciences. But the weak form is really nothing at all like the strong form of the hypothesis, the weak form merely posits an interaction between language and thought, the strong form asserts that language is a limiting factor in the interaction.
        Forgive what could be a stupid question.

        If language and thought interact (by which I mean affect each other)...

        And language is inherently less flexible than thought (as evidenced by all languages being contained within all thought)

        Then wouldn't language be the limiting factor by definition? Not necessarily indicating that it must limit thought, but that in a system involving language and thought, language will always have fewer possible effects on thought than thought can have on language?

        You are what you think.

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