Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 08:47 UTC
General Development

The best class I took in college was on the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Until that point, I had avoided philosophy of language as simply being too esoteric and hermetic to be of use. David Pears, a prodigious yet modest and approachable figure visiting from Oxford, changed my mind. In large part because of Pears' instruction, Wittgenstein's philosophy has been directly relevant to my thinking about computer science, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. When other scholars were thinking that language and thought could be reduced to a universal, logical language, Wittgenstein turned the matter to practical questions and raised incredibly inconvenient questions that gained traction in artificial intelligence in the 1970s, 40 years after he was working on them.

Great article. I found this paragraph especially interesting:

Here's one example. The French equivalents for here and there are ici and là respectively. But if I point to a pen and say, "The pen is here," the French equivalent is not "Le stylo est ici," but "Le stylo est là." In French, là is always used to refer to a specific place or position, while in English here or there can both work. This rule is so obscure I never learned it in French classes, but obviously all native speakers learn it because no one ever uses it differently. It could just as easily be the other way round, but it's not. The situation is not arbitrary, but the way in which language carves up the interaction between mind and world varies in such a way that French speakers recognize certain practices as right or wrong in a different way than English speakers do. This may seem a trivial point, until you have to program a computer to translate "I pointed to Paris on the map and said, 'She is here.' " into French - at which point it becomes a nightmare. (If you are a translator, on the other hand, this is great news.)

Aside from the obvious fact that I can relate to the remark about translators, the author touches upon something that I benefit from every day. I always feel that being multilingual (just Dutch, English, German, some French, and a basic grasp of ancient Greek and Latin - relatively limited when compared to true multilinguals) makes it easier for me to express myself. Being able to use words, concepts, ideas, structures, and conventions from foreign languages and incorporate them into my Dutch - even if only in my inner monologue - allows me to describe objects, concepts, and situations in a more fine-grained, and therefore, more accurate manner (accurate to my perception, which does not mean "more correct" in more absolute terms).

I appreciate how ridiculously pretentious this sounds, but I do firmly believe this is true: being able to understand, read, write, and speak multiple language makes me better at language.

I'm no programmer - something I like to repeat as often as I can to make sure everyone knows where I'm coming from on the subject of programming - but I get the idea that programming is not very different in that regard. That is, being able to program in multiple programming languages will make you better at programming, and not just in the sense that you will be useful in more situations (you can find a job both as a Java and an Objective-C programmer, for instance), but also in the sense that knowledge and experience in programming language Abc will give you new and different insights into programming language Xyz, allowing you to use a certain language in more unconventional ways that people with knowledge of fewer languages might not.

As much as language is an expression of culture, a programming language is an expression of how a computer works. Both contain within them invaluable knowledge that cannot be easily expressed in other languages - and as such, they are invaluable in preserving knowledge, both culturally and digitally.

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Pretty fascinating stuff
by NuxRo on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 09:37 UTC
NuxRo
Member since:
2010-09-25

Language is pretty fascinating stuff.

Re your case on using multiple languages, I read in various places that being bilingual already can alter and increase the brain (in a positive way). People in English speaking countries are missing out (assuming they don't learn any other language).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 14:33 UTC in reply to "Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

I'm not sure how much of the following is true but I heard a theory for the generally more straightforward/blunt communication in Dutch and German speaking regions compared to other languages.

The argument is that in the Dutch and German language you have this funny word order (we call it tangconstructies) where the phrases in a sentence can contain other phrases and sentences. One typical example of this is the split verb phrase.

"I [have] an apple [eaten]."

This can quickly become more complex:

"I [have] (a) this morning at the farm picked (apple) that lovely red was, [eaten]."

While parsing the sentence, you have to memorize everything until the last word to figure out what is actually going on. To make this parsing process easier, you simply leave out all the fluffy descriptions and make sentences shorter. Hence the straightforward language.

Well that's the story at least. Take it with as much salt as you want.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by Carewolf on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 16:38 UTC in reply to "RE: Pretty fascinating stuff"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

That is mainly high German that does that. Scandinavian languages have a word order similarly to English, though often using more nested sentences, and are considered even more blunt than German.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 20:08 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Hm, I had a different impression during my time in Sweden. They just didn't like to start a random conversation, generally speaking of course. It's something different than straightforward. Well that's only my subjective opinion obviously so take it with just as much salt as the story above.

Dutch uses those constructions a lot more flexibly than German by the way.

Edited 2015-09-02 20:10 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by Carewolf on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 22:13 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

Hm, I had a different impression during my time in Sweden. They just didn't like to start a random conversation, generally speaking of course. It's something different than straightforward. Well that's only my subjective opinion obviously so take it with just as much salt as the story above.

Okay, maybe it is just the Danes being blunt and accidentally offensive.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by iswrong on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 13:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Pretty fascinating stuff"
iswrong Member since:
2012-07-15

I'm not sure how much of the following is true but I heard a theory for the generally more straightforward/blunt communication in Dutch and German speaking regions compared to other languages.

The argument is that in the Dutch and German language you have this funny word order (we call it tangconstructies) where the phrases in a sentence can contain other phrases and sentences. One typical example of this is the split verb phrase.

"I [have] an apple [eaten]."

This can quickly become more complex:

"I [have] (a) this morning at the farm picked (apple) that lovely red was, [eaten]."

While parsing the sentence, you have to memorize everything until the last word to figure out what is actually going on.


Any sources? I am not sure how plausible this is. E.g. most speakers will probably just extrapose this morning at the farm picked. E.g.

Ik heb een mooie rode appel gegeten, die vanochtend vers op de boerderij geplukt is.

And now you have a nice canonical NP (een mooie rode appel) and a subordinate clause in the usual place ;) .

Edited 2015-09-03 13:46 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 17:00 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Nope, no source at all. It's just something I heard from a Dutchie a while ago. I figured it'd be an entertaining story to share as it at least sounds somewhat believable, even if it turns out to be total nonsense (like many of those 'broodje aap' stories ;) )

Ik heb een mooie rode appel gegeten, die vanochtend vers op de boerderij geplukt is.

That example is technically incorrect as a 'betrekkelijke bijzin' should be inserted right behind the phrase to which it points. And depending on whether the subsentence uniquely identifies the phrase or not, there should or shouldn't be a comma before it.

But yeah, many people use it in that way. In practice noone cares. Most will even split it up in two sentences and leave all the extras out because it just sounds too difficult.

Ik heb een mooie, rode appel gegeten. Hij komt vers van de boerderij!

This feels short and more direct, which was a bit the point of the story.

Edited 2015-09-03 17:06 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

That example is technically incorrect as a 'betrekkelijke bijzin' should be inserted right behind the phrase to which it points.


You are wrong.

"Net als elke andere bijvoeglijke bepaling staat de bijvoeglijke bijzin bij voorkeur onmiddellijk na het woord waar naar verwezen wordt, het antecedent. Uitzonderingen zijn de zelfstandignaamwoordgroepen."

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bijvoeglijke_bijzin

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 19:49 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

I'm sorry but this is a clear case of [Citation needed]. The two sources listed in that wiki article never mention this exception. In fact, Taaladvies itself explicitly shows otherwise.[1]

It's not because someone writes something on Wikipedia that it's suddenly the truth. I'll need a source from a legitimate authority for that. Sure I'll admit people often use that construction, but this doesn't mean that it's technically correct Dutch.

[1] http://taaladvies.net/taal/advies/term/21/bijzin/

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Fri 4th Sep 2015 06:55 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Actually, the wiki article is right. I interpreted it in the context of the apple sentence (which is wrong). However, the example in the wiki article simply has two bijvoeglijke bepalingen for "de man":

De man (antecedent) /1 uit het tehuis /2 die gisteren zo dronken was(, is overleden.)

The clause "die gisteren zo dronken was" relates to "de man uit het tehuis" and is still directly attached to that. The whole thing including the clause is the subject phrase.

You cannot write:

De man uit het tehuis is overleden die gisteren zo dronken was.

Because then you tear the subject phrase apart, and that's incorrect. The same is true for the apple sentence where you cannot tear out the clause from the phrase that holds the antecedent.

Feel free to correct me, I really enjoy analysing languages as I think it gives a better understanding of how they work. I've been trying to write a language parser for Dutch once, but unlike English it's a real pain in the ass unfortunately.

Edited 2015-09-04 06:57 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by iswrong on Sun 6th Sep 2015 15:56 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
iswrong Member since:
2012-07-15

Feel free to correct me, I really enjoy analysing languages as I think it gives a better understanding of how they work. I've been trying to write a language parser for Dutch once, but unlike English it's a real pain in the ass unfortunately.


Since I don't wan to use the argument 'I am a native speaker', here you go:

Het proces van extrapositie vinden we niet alleen bij objectzinnen, als in (47). In (48) worden subjectzinnen naar achteren geplaatst, in (49) bijwoordelijke bijzinnen en in (50) bijvoeglijke bijzinnen.
[...]
50 a' 'Het leger heeft de bewoners geholpen die het land uit gevlucht zijn.


Source: Syntax van het Nederlands, Hans Bennis

De man uit het tehuis is overleden die gisteren zo dronken was.

That doesn't work, because you are extraposing the subordinate clause that modifies the subject.

Edited 2015-09-06 15:58 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Pretty fascinating stuff
by unclefester on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 01:51 UTC in reply to "Pretty fascinating stuff"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

The reality is that "monolingual" native English speakers are already multilingual. They are essentially speaking an extremely complex French-Dutch hybrid chock full of Greek and Latin. In addition they use borrow words from virtually every language on Earth. The average English speker would probably use words from at least 50-100 different languages on a daily basis.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cb88 on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 03:17 UTC in reply to "RE: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cb88 Member since:
2009-04-23

Indeed... the latin roots of many english words helped me alot when I was learning Portugese.

I don't think most people think quite like I do but I tend to sort of link together certain words in my mind to help remember them... like courier and correio (the former is english of course and the latter is portugese for mail).

The pronunciation is pretty different but I am a sight reader anyway... so I suspect it my brain doesn't care much what it sounds like when remembering the word.

I think not everyone thinks in the same manner.. for instance when I think mail its like a single node with the various other things (pronunciation, imagery etc..) attached to it.. whereas I think some people sort of throw each language in separate boxes and have to sift through each to match up words... which makes speech of your second language feel more mechanical.

You can even tell when people are doing this... the pause where they form the words in their native thought process which may mean acutally making up the words in their head then translating them into the second language.

It's an important distinction... my native language is my thoughts. That said I imagine it is adapted to english and related languages... whenever I have tried learning a bit of a very different language like Chinese or Japanese there is a larger barrier for me than a langauge that is more similar to the two I already know. I think that barrier is caused by different reasons for different people as well...

Reply Score: 2

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

According to the US Foreign Service Institute an English speaker can learn any Germanic (eg Norwegian) or Romance (eg Spanish or Romanian) language in about six months or 600 hours [because we already know much of the vocabulary and grammar.]

I'm currently teaching English to a couple of Persian spekers. They struggle because they don't have a Latin/French derived vocabulary. [Surprisingly the Persian word for 'thank you' is actually the French word 'merci'.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by Trenien on Sun 6th Sep 2015 09:02 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
Trenien Member since:
2007-10-11

600 hours over 6 months.

You do realize that it averages at 5 hours a day (from Monday through Friday). That's intensive training; with such, you can expect to learn pretty much any language (except maybe the really exotic ones, like Navajo or some such). English speakers having an easier time with some groups doesn't really enter the picture.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by iswrong on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 13:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Pretty fascinating stuff"
iswrong Member since:
2012-07-15

The reality is that "monolingual" native English speakers are already multilingual. They are essentially speaking an extremely complex French-Dutch


If you know a thing about e.g. Dutch or German syntax, you'd know that English is a walk in the park ;) . Simple SVO order, no V2, no verb movement, no frequent topicalization of non-subjects, no scrambling.

English orthography OTOH is severely non-phonemic.

In addition they use borrow words from virtually every language on Earth.


Don't you think languages in most culturally-diverse countries are pretty much the same? E.g. Dutch also uses a large number of French and English loanwords, as well as German ones. There is a lot more to being multi-lingual than a lexicon. E.g. a monolingual English speaker has virtually no experience with cases (since English has no case system, except for some leftovers in personal pronouns), different word orders, etc.

Edited 2015-09-03 14:08 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by cfgr on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 17:12 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

English orthography OTOH is severely non-phonemic.

Yes, that's actually on purpose. They don't want to alter the way you spell words, so they get detached from the modern pronunciation. The advantage is that you can read older books without being annoyed by an outdated spelling and you don't need to 'relearn' spelling rules. This is unlike Dutch, where spelling rules are changed every few years. However, in Dutch you usually spell it like you pronounce it. Both have a point.

You're completely right though, English is a walk in the park compared to other Western languages. The grammar rules are incredibly simple which makes it very accessible as a universal language but sometimes lacks the funky ways in which you can bend a sentence to slightly alter its meaning (like stressing certain phrases and some modal constructions). Of course, that can be compensated by adding more words and context.

Edited 2015-09-03 17:17 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by Trenien on Sun 6th Sep 2015 09:12 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
Trenien Member since:
2007-10-11

I'm afraid you're deluding yourself.
As an English teacher, I can say that it is FAR from being an easy language to learn (one of the many reasons being its utter lack of consistency between pronunciation and spelling). At the same time, there are many ways to be extremely subtle in the way you can change the meaning of what you say.
I believe you're confusing English and its much dumber cousin, Globish. The latter is easier to learn but, as you said, doesn't give one the ability to express their ideas finely.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by iswrong on Sun 6th Sep 2015 16:01 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
iswrong Member since:
2012-07-15

one of the many reasons being its utter lack of consistency between pronunciation and spelling


Did you actually read the parent's and my comment?

Reply Score: 1

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

If you know a thing about e.g. Dutch or German syntax, you'd know that English is a walk in the park ;) . Simple SVO order, no V2, no verb movement, no frequent topicalization of non-subjects, no scrambling.


There is an English saying 'A little learning is a dangerous thing'. Any non-native speaker who thinks English is easy simply doesn't understand English. In fact a supposedly "fluent" non-native speaker often has no more than the barest basics of English.

Basic international business English only requires a vocabulary of 1000 English words. You only need to know about 3000 words to read an English newspaper. However a native English speaker will have at least a 20,000 word working vocabulary and be able to comprehend another 40,000 words. The most articulate will probably have double those numbers.

English has no consistent rules on spelling, plurals, pronunciation, or the use of suffixes and prefixes. There aren't even rigid rules on word order. You literally have to learn each example individually based one experience. eg Dishes is the plural of dish but fishes is not the plural of fish (unless the fish are from multiple species).

There are tens of thousands of homonyms and homphones based on roots from hundreds of languages. In many cases it is impossible to guess the meaning of new words because it is derved from an obscure language. (eg English potato vs German erdapfel (literally earth apple)

Most English words have unrelated multiple meanings that are entirely dependent on context. They can't be understood in isolation. Then you have the almost infinite variation of nuance and subtle intonation that is only apparent to native speakers. Finally veranacular conversational English is really nothing like written or formal English.

Reply Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

However a native English speaker will have at least a 20,000 word working vocabulary and be able to comprehend another 40,000 words. The most articulate will probably have double those numbers.


I've done several of those vocabulary tests. I rank among the top few percent of native speakers.

Creepy.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by Alfman on Fri 4th Sep 2015 13:58 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom Holwerda,

I've done several of those vocabulary tests. I rank among the top few percent of native speakers.


Was this online? What test was it, and if you don't mind sharing, what was your score?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by acobar on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 14:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Pretty fascinating stuff"
acobar Member since:
2005-11-15

The reality is that "monolingual" native English speakers are already multilingual. They are essentially speaking an extremely complex French-Dutch hybrid chock full of Greek and Latin.

I think you are mixing things here. The fact that a language borrow or adapt words and some concepts from others is not new nor exclusive to English, virtually all western languages, and probably all relevant ones do so. It really does not matter if English or some other language have more words, we are going to memorize just a fraction of them anyway.

What is shocking to any native English speaker is the complexity of grammar present on French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

French is the most complex language I tried to learn. English really pales when compared.

And makes no mistake, the lack of rudimentary grammar familiarity does make you look uneducated (or lacking a polish, at least) to reasonably educated speakers, much more than a reduced vocabulary, on my opinion.

Anyway, from a sonority point of view my favorite language is Italian and, overall, my favorite language is English, even though the lack of a more rigid set of rules on phonemes and syllables pronunciation is a mistake I greatly regret on it (perhaps, this explain why we have so many variations of words vocalizations between English speakers from different regions).

Reply Score: 2

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13


I think you are mixing things here. The fact that a language borrow or adapt words and some concepts from others is not new nor exclusive to English, virtually all western languages, and probably all relevant ones do so. It really does not matter if English or some other language have more words, we are going to memorize just a fraction of them anyway.


I suggest you read a lingusitics textbook. English is a true hydbrid or two very different language systems Anglo-Saxon (closely related to Dutch) and Old French. It has a compltely unique stem of grammar, syntax and pronunciation. It is not simply Anglo-Saxon with a lot of borrow words.


What is shocking to any native English speaker is the complexity of grammar present on French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.


These languages all have very consistent grammer. Once you know the rules you are fine. In English the rules are so isconsistent to be virtually worthless.

French is the most complex language I tried to learn. English really pales when compared.


French is basically "Latin for Dunmmies". It has a tiny vocabulary of only 100,000 words and an extremely consistent grammatical structure. It is widely considered to be (one of the) easiest languages for an English speaker to learn.

I learned French. It is an absolute doddle to read. They only real problem for most English users is pronunciation.

And makes no mistake, the lack of rudimentary grammar familiarity does make you look uneducated (or lacking a polish, at least) to reasonably educated speakers, much more than a reduced vocabulary, on my opinion.


In practice a large vocabulary is infinitely more important than good grammar. You literally can't do anything unless you know the right words to say.


Anyway, from a sonority point of view my favorite language is Italian and, overall, my favorite language is English, even though the lack of a more rigid set of rules on phonemes and syllables pronunciation is a mistake I greatly regret on it (perhaps, this explain why we have so many variations of words vocalizations between English speakers from different regions).


The problem is that English uses an alphabet designed for a very different language (Latin).Latin only has 24 phonemes. English has 44 phonemes. We need another 18 new letters to spell English consistently.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Pretty fascinating stuff
by acobar on Fri 4th Sep 2015 20:39 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pretty fascinating stuff"
acobar Member since:
2005-11-15

It is not simply Anglo-Saxon with a lot of borrow words.

I didn't say it is, I said that many languages borrow words and concepts from each other.

These languages all have very consistent grammar. Once you know the rules you are fine. In English the rules are so inconsistent to be virtually worthless.

Yes, they have, but they also have a lot of rules that are not easy to master, actually, very few native speakers do and most of them are scholars with a particular interest on grammar. Compare, for example the verb forms present on English and the ones present on Portuguese, French (specially), Spanish and German. You could argue that only few of them are really used, and that is true, but they are part of the grammar.

French is basically "Latin for Dunmmies". It has a tiny vocabulary of only 100,000

Again, on my view, you are using the wrong argument. You don't need to master, say, 30,000 words to be a proficient speaker and dictionaries are there to help on this case. For grammar, however, the extent of help you can get even from a very good app is rudimentary to say the least.

In practice a large vocabulary is infinitely more important than good grammar. You literally can't do anything unless you know the right words to say.

See my previous argument, of course you need to have a minimum vocabulary but it is not in the hundred of thousand figure.

On the other hand, as English grammar is simpler, native English speakers, at least the ones I met, never achieved an "acceptable" level, by a formal education standard, on sentences construction (besides the trivial ones). They used to make mistakes on verb conjugation and concordance of genre, noun, adjectives, use of articles and etc.

The problem is that English uses an alphabet designed for a very different language (Latin).Latin only has 24 phonemes. English has 44 phonemes. We need another 18 new letters to spell English consistently.

We agree here, English is a phonetically rich language, more than most languages are, it is specially noted on the large number of vowel phonemes. It causes many problems for non-native English speakers (Lets go see the {beach|bitch} is my favorite one ;) ). By the way, it is not more characters what we need but a finer control of tones nuances, like what is allowed by use of accents symbols (emphases).

Note, however, that is not because English has a larger number of phonemes that native English speakers are free of trouble when trying to reproduce phonemes from other languages, Portuguese and German have phonemes that are unmatched by the ones present on English.

Reply Score: 2

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Lojban
by Kochise on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 10:33 UTC
Kochise
Member since:
2006-03-03

Yeah, read this :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity
www.blutner.de/color/Sapir-Whorf.pdf

Then comes Lojban :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban#Applications

BTW the parent of all programming languages is :

( language ( programming ( all ( common ( LISP ) ) ) ) )

From Lisp, you can recreate any other programming language, even Befunge.

One of the best interactive modern Lisp implementation is Dr Racket :

http://docs.racket-lang.org/quick/

To compare various programming languages at work :

http://rosettacode.org/wiki/Category:Programming_Tasks

Reply Score: 3

theosib Member since:
2006-03-02

From Lisp, you can recreate any other programming language, even Befunge.


That's a vacuous assertion. It's even more vacuous since, as usual, you didn't back up the claim with, well, anything.

I like Lisp and think it's an extremely powerful language. But I've also written interpreters for Lisp in C, which means you can recreate Lisp in C, so is C the mother of all languages? No. You can recreate any turing-complete language in any other turing-complete language. It's true that there are a lot of constructions that come out a hell of a lot more efficiently in Lisp, but mostly in terms of programmer time and cognitive load (if you're well practiced at thinking in that language). There are innumerable special cases, however, where coding directly in assembly will yield faster execution.

When you go around claiming that your favorite language is the mother of all languages in this way, it doesn't make other people wnt to use that language. It just makes you look like a mindless zealot. Moreover, this slobbery love of Lisp has become cliche to the rest of the programming community.

Paul Graham (IIRC) wrote this long article about how Lisp is what made him and his team at Yahoo able to stay ahead of the competition. They were able to adapt their software more quickly. He asserted that that was because he wrote in Lisp. However, I've never seen any argument that convinced me that it was the language. I think their advantage was a combination of two things: (1) They were just very smart programmers, and (2) they were very well practiced at their favorite language, so they were efficient at using it. Nothing in here conclusively gives the language itself credit for their success.

With a unified syntax for code and data structures and a powerful macro system that can execute at compile time arbitrary code to generate arbitrary code to compile, Lisp syntax allows you to do things directly that other languages simply cannot. However, all of those things can be done in other languages, with somewhat less convenience, and with some hand-tuning, some of those other languages may allow higher execution performance, because you have to describe the algorithm more directly at a lower level.

Reply Score: 10

judgen Member since:
2006-07-12

I would not call it a vacuous assertion, it is a nebulous assertion.

Reply Score: 2

desafinado Member since:
2015-09-02

One may claim that any language is the mother of any or all other languages, but the progenitors of all languages are the microcode languages that reside in writable control stores and that implement the machine languages of the computers that run all programs written in all high level languages.

Even computers that execute Algol (think Burroughs) or chips that execute Java as native languages must have the equivalent of microcode as a base level.

Reply Score: 1

cb88 Member since:
2009-04-23

No... They mustn't. CPUs can be and have been designed without the use of microcode.

Also it would be misguided to think of microcode as a language... It's more like wiring between neurons.

I in fpgas its mainly a wash to use microcode as your cpu is already fully reconfigurable.

Reply Score: 2

allanregistos Member since:
2011-02-10

"From Lisp, you can recreate any other programming language, even Befunge.



Paul Graham (IIRC) wrote this long article about how Lisp is what made him and his team at Yahoo able to stay ahead of the competition. They were able to adapt their software more quickly. He asserted that that was because he wrote in Lisp. However, I've never seen any argument that convinced me that it was the language. I think their advantage was a combination of two things: (1) They were just very smart programmers, and (2) they were very well practiced at their favorite language, so they were efficient at using it. Nothing in here conclusively gives the language itself credit for their success.
"

Well, there are reasons why some people used Ada/Spark to program high integrity, safety-critical applications like drones, robots, spacecrafts, medical applications etc. Yes, it is actually possible to create high integrity applications using other programming languages, but then again the difficulty of creating such a system is so high that using Ada is a plain solution to the problem.
http://www.adacore.com/sparkpro/

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Antartica_
by Antartica_ on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 11:42 UTC
Antartica_
Member since:
2012-12-28

I can relate to this, both in natural languages and in programming languages.

My "aha" moment was in my first work, in which I had to program in C although I had personally abandoned C for C++ lately. I was surprised that most C++ constructs I wanted to do were possible in bare C with some creativity.

My C programs after my C++ phase were leaps and bounds better organized and modular. The net result is that for quite a long time I have been studying a new programming language each year and I can't regret it.

What is not mentioned is that while you are learning a new language, your current languages are "destabilized". Especially if the languages are quite different.

This has happened to me recently; my Spanish (mother tongue) has been suffering because of my learning of Japanese, as I try to adapt Japanese constructs to Spanish and they don't fit. As times pases, it is like you have generalized your mental constructs and both languages approachs "fit" once again.

In the end it is the classic "it broadens your horizons". You think about things from a new perspective, even when you use your "old" language.

Edited 2015-09-02 11:44 UTC

Reply Score: 2

sergio Member since:
2005-07-06

My C programs after my C++ phase were leaps and bounds better organized and modular. The net result is that for quite a long time I have been studying a new programming language each year and I can't regret it.


I had a similar experience, but I think the reason is OOP. I had to learn OOP concepts to understand most of the C++ code so I ended up being a better programmer... not because of C++... because of OOP abstractions!

In general, people give too much credit to languages but the really important thing are programming paradigms and not languages themselves.

If you really understand structured programming going from Pascal to Basic or C is not a big deal. It's just a syntactic change.

If you know OOP programming really well, going from Smalltalk to C++ or Java is not difficult neither. It's just cosmetics and practice.

The really hard part is thinking correctly, having the right abstractions.

IMHO human language is the same... I don't care if it's Spanish, English or Swahili, what matters are the IDEAS.

Stupid ideas are stupid in any language... and the same applies to the good ones.

Reply Score: 2

programming language
by l3v1 on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 12:03 UTC
l3v1
Member since:
2005-07-06

OT

a programming language is an expression of how a computer works


Of course, it is not an expression of how a computer works, but an expression of what you want to tell a computer to do.

/OT

Reply Score: 6

RE: programming language
by theosib on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 12:30 UTC in reply to "programming language"
theosib Member since:
2006-03-02

Yes, indeed. In fact, the purpose behind a programming language is to abstract away the function of the hardware and allow you to express algorithms at a high level in more mathematical or natural terms. The higher-level the language, the more distanced you are from assembly language, let alone any aspect of the CPU microarchtiecture.

Reply Score: 2

RE: programming language
by cfgr on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 13:16 UTC in reply to "programming language"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Indeed. For functional programming, you even go one step further by expressing the nature of a problem and its solution in logical terms. The interpreter will then translate that into instructions for the computer.

It's such a fundamentally different concept that many programmers find it difficult to switch over from the traditional imperative languages. It's a way of problem solving that requires a completely different mindset. It comes with its advantages but also with its own limits. I find the distance between these approaches a lot harder to overcome than the distance between Dutch (Germanic) and Latin/Greek for example. I imagine it's more like Dutch vs Chinese (though I have no clue about Chinese).

Edited 2015-09-02 13:27 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: programming language
by avgalen on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 14:23 UTC in reply to "RE: programming language"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

Just like Thom I am Dutch and always thought languages were interesting but easy variations: English/French/German/Dutch are roughly the same for me as C#/VB/Java/C++. Different enough to take some time to learn, but equal enough not to have any major problems learning them. Every new one you learn makes you a bit better at the other ones as well, but you also start to mix them in ways that others will have difficulty to understand (not good when you are working together on a project).

Now learning Japanese is like learning F#, where you know that you can reach the same result, but everything is so different that it takes forever to adjust. And once you know it there is hardly any crossover benefit. However, you can approach entirely different problems in a much better way now.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: programming language
by cfgr on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:34 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: programming language"
cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Every new one you learn makes you a bit better at the other ones as well, but you also start to mix them in ways that others will have difficulty to understand (not good when you are working together on a project).

Exactly! I even noticed the same with Dutch (from the Netherlands) compared to my Belgian Dutch. While they are pretty much the same, there are still small differences such as word order and intonation. At first they confused my (Dutch) girlfriend, but now they confuse my (Belgian) family because I mix them up all the time :-)

I'm not talking about dialects here, just what is allowed in formal standard Dutch. Our language is very flexible but still has 'common practises' that are valid but different in both countries. See http://taaladvies.net/taal/advies/tekst/37 for more - note that reading this may inflict brain damage.

Reply Score: 2

Le stylo est ici
by marc.collin on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 12:29 UTC
marc.collin
Member since:
2012-08-03

"Le stylo est ici" is correct too.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Le stylo est ici
by steogede2 on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 12:48 UTC in reply to "Le stylo est ici"
steogede2 Member since:
2007-08-17

> the French equivalents for here and there are ici and là respectively. But if I point to a pen and say, "The pen is here," the French equivalent is not "Le stylo est ici," but "Le stylo est là."

If I were pointing at a pen I wouldn't say 'the pen is here', I would say 'the pen is there'. Unless I were holding the object and pointing at it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Le stylo est ici
by loic on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Le stylo est ici"
loic Member since:
2012-09-23

French people often mix-up both and use the wrong one.
"Viens ici" ou "Viens là" are both used frequently with the same meaning. While "ici" and "là" have a precise absolute signification dictionary-wise, real usage is not as absolute.

Edited 2015-09-02 15:11 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Le stylo est ici
by rft183 on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 18:46 UTC in reply to "RE: Le stylo est ici"
rft183 Member since:
2005-08-11

That's how I would say it. "Here" implies that the object is with me. I also wouldn't point at Paris on the map and say "She is here," for the same reason. It would be "She is there." Which seems to be the exact same thing they're saying in French. Perhaps I'm missing something...

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Le stylo est ici
by dnebdal on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 10:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Le stylo est ici"
dnebdal Member since:
2008-08-27

That's how I would say it. "Here" implies that the object is with me. I also wouldn't point at Paris on the map and say "She is here," for the same reason. It would be "She is there." Which seems to be the exact same thing they're saying in French. Perhaps I'm missing something...



It seems to be related to the this/that split: "Here" is "this place", and "there" is "that place". The confusion sets in when the former can mean both "this place I'm currently in" and "this map location I'm indicating".

Edited 2015-09-03 11:01 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Le stylo est ici
by rft183 on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 14:01 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Le stylo est ici"
rft183 Member since:
2005-08-11

Thanks! It appears I was missing something, and this helps clear some of the confusion.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Le stylo est ici
by Vanders on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 19:12 UTC in reply to "RE: Le stylo est ici"
Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

If I were pointing at a pen I wouldn't say 'the pen is here', I would say 'the pen is there'. Unless I were holding the object and pointing at it.

Maybe, but the problem with language is that everyone has their own idea of the rules. For example English is my native (and, well, only) language, but I might point at the pen and say "That's it, there". It's not Queens English though, so I couldn't claim it is "correct"; you have to draw a line somewhere.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Le stylo est ici
by Alfman on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:19 UTC in reply to "Le stylo est ici"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

marc.collin,

"Le stylo est ici" is correct too.



I was wondering about that, because it seemed correct to me. OTOH I know the French often think Canadians have mutilated the French language.


These videos comparing French are a little unprofessional to my liking, however I do feel they are informative in portraying "Québécois" very well. It might be interesting to French speakers who haven't been around Canadians.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO46zvQ7GoY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df_BjOaAp68

Reply Score: 2

hier, dort, da
by cybergorf on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 13:44 UTC
cybergorf
Member since:
2008-06-30

The german language uses three words instead of just two for describing these kind of things:

hier: a strong "here" for objects in reach or phrases like "I am here now". Can also be used while pointing on a map.

dort: a "there" that is definitely somewhere else than the current position. If you use it for pointing on a map, it indicates, you are referring to that real place and not just the drawing on the map.

da: can mean both and is widely used, if you are not so sure...

Having more differentiation makes it not always easier.

Edited 2015-09-02 13:45 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Language dialects
by Alfman on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 14:45 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom,

I always feel that being multilingual (just Dutch, English, German, some French, and a basic grasp of ancient Greek and Latin - relatively limited when compared to true multilinguals) makes it easier for me to express myself.


I haven't specifically kept track, but occasionally I notice you using odd word combinations For example you used to use "rests me to say that..." frequently until someone pointed out that native English speakers never say that.

Unless one is an expert on dialects sometimes it's not obvious that one is doing it. I grew up in western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, famously known for Pittsburghese:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_English


I don't really have the accent - I find it hard to do but you can listen to it here, believe it or not this is what some of my neighbors sounded like:
http://www.pittsburghese.com/quiz.shtml


Apparently I did pick up some of the local phrases like "The lawn needs cut", instead of "The lawn needs to be cut", something I wasn't really conscious of until my wife pointed it out. Local dialects are funny this way as different parts of the country have distinguishable language features.

I wouldn't say local dialects are good or bad, just different. I kind of wonder what modern connectivity, movies, etc does to local dialects over time? Obviously there were centuries of divergence, but is there a slow convergence and attenuation of local features when new generations are born into a more global community?

Edited 2015-09-02 14:48 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Language dialects
by Earl Colby pottinger on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 16:29 UTC in reply to "Language dialects"
Earl Colby pottinger Member since:
2005-07-06

I was born in London England. I consider myself as British/Canadian.

I grew up for the first eight(8) years in the same home in London. I then move to Jamaica where I lived for another seven(7) years before moving to Canada where I have lived over forty(40) years.

Important details, both of my parents are Jamaican and of-course I have dark skin.


When I was younger (15-30+) most people when they meet me assume I must Jamaican, that is the part of my speech that they hear.

However, I have over the years meet a number of people who clued in from my word choices that I must be originally from England, and quite a few guessed I was from London, but one man I meet not only could tell I was from London England - he could identify what part of London I grew up in.

The language you learn really marks you to the person with a learned ear.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Language dialects
by shotsman on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 05:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Language dialects"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

I guess that you live in N. America now because only people from there feel the need to add ", England" after the word London.

any Hollywood film that uses 'London, England' gets a downvote from me. London is London like Moscow (the 'w' is silent) is Moscow , Paris is Paris. All those other places that have the same name have borrowed it from the original.

Even with 'New York City, New York'. Can you really not understand that there is only one NYC?

People confuse where I live now with New Hampshire because the only hear the 'hampshire' part. I live in the original Hampshire. This really confused a lot of people when I lived in N.H. for two years and then moved back to Old Hampshire. Several thought I was moving with the N.H. State.

Your brain can easily decieve you.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Language dialects
by Earl Colby pottinger on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 13:14 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Language dialects"
Earl Colby pottinger Member since:
2005-07-06

On the other hand I live only about 200 kilometers from London Ontario. Around here (Toronto) if I just said I was from London the automatic assumption would be that I meant London, Ontario in Canada.

There is a very good reason to add in the "England"!

Edited 2015-09-03 13:15 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Language dialects
by Alfman on Thu 3rd Sep 2015 15:16 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Language dialects"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Earl Colby pottinger,

There is a very good reason to add in the "England"!



Exactly! The meaning of names is totally relative. I remember one transfer student in high school having introduced himself as from "California". He was actually from California, PA. Most people will have never heard of this place even though California PA narrowly predates California state!

There's also "Paris, TX, USA", and probably many others.

Of course these places don't have global influence, so in a global context we don't even think about them. But the closer you get to them the bigger their influence is to locals. It becomes important to say "Paris, France" to avoid confusion.

That's just the nature of similar names, be it people, places, and even companies. Just a few weeks ago I was surprised to learn that the HERSHEY'S chocolate company and the HERSHEY'S ice cream company were two different companies. I actually thought they were one company because they have the same name and even the same upper case spelling.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Language dialects
by Phloptical on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 22:43 UTC in reply to "Language dialects"
Phloptical Member since:
2006-10-10

I grew up in western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, famously known for Pittsburghese:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_English


I don't really have the accent - I find it hard to do but you can listen to it here, believe it or not this is what some of my neighbors sounded like:
http://www.pittsburghese.com/quiz.shtml


Apparently I did pick up some of the local phrases like "The lawn needs cut", instead of "The lawn needs to be cut", something I wasn't really conscious of until my wife pointed it out. Local dialects are funny this way as different parts of the country have distinguishable language features.

Reply Score: 2

Detachment a dream
by dionicio on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:03 UTC
dionicio
Member since:
2006-07-12

Programming Languages attached to their mother tongue ;)

Reply Score: 1

Languages and culture pollution
by loic on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:04 UTC
loic
Member since:
2012-09-23

Languages and cultures vary in details in unpredictable ways. To learn a language, you need to learn the associated culture. So, what Thom is right, with a variety of language-cultures usable, you can think about concepts and ideas in various ways and pick the preferred one for a mindset or a situations. Even more, some concepts do not exist in some cultures.
If you do not get it, you should read 1984 or try and learn a culturally foreign language.

Reply Score: 1

Language structure and formatizations
by acobar on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 15:38 UTC
acobar
Member since:
2005-11-15

As much as language is an expression of culture ...

I really fail to see how, perhaps someone can better enlighten my understanding. Non-trivial texts and idiomatic expressions incident to countries and regions can be used to characterize cultures, though.

... a programming language is an expression of how a computer works ...

Already rightfully clarified by l3v1 comment.

... Both contain within them invaluable knowledge that cannot be easily expressed in other languages ...

The only things I find lost on professional translations is the structure and rhythm present on poetry and certain idiomatic expressions. Their meaning, though, can be sufficiently matched although it may need a longer construction to achieve it.

Some languages incorporated/formalized more constructions inside their structure, be them pronouns, verb forms, auxiliary and complements, articles, adjectives, inflections, accents, punctuations, etc., and as so allowed their users to build more compact and precise meanings (what can be associated to efficiency as that could also mean less letters to be written, perhaps).

I think that theosib comment applies here, the meaning of things still can be satisfactorily translated.

Is the construction of a more "complex" language structure rewarding ? For example, Portuguese, Spanish and French have many verb forms that, when translated to English, frequently requires the use of auxiliary verbs and complements. I am not sure, the effort seems nonlinear to me. The only thing I miss from these languages is related to rules about phonemes and syllables pronunciation.

As a curiosity, gender on nouns and adjectives are a source of many mistakes on translations, there is no simple rule on that, it is case by case.

Thom seems right, though, that the knowledge of other languages can foster our understanding of particular ones by highlighting the structures that must be present to achieve a meaningful construction/match.

Edited 2015-09-02 15:42 UTC

Reply Score: 3

dnebdal Member since:
2008-08-27

The only things I find lost on professional translations is the structure and rhythm present on poetry and certain idiomatic expressions. Their meaning, though, can be sufficiently matched although it may need a longer construction to achieve it.


The balance between translating the exact meaning and translating the reading experience is interesting, though. I ran into it while trying to say a few words about the complications of doing research on human-sourced genomics data:

In Norwegian, the core concept is "personvern" - literally "defense of the person". It's not far from "privacy", but there's a bit of a different focus: I'd expect a law on privacy to be mostly about how you can't dig up/publish sordid details from my non-public life, while a law on personvern is more about the standards for dealing with sensitive administrative information, like medical history or anything that could be used for ID theft.

Did I lose anything by translating it to "privacy"? Nothing important, but the associations are a bit different. Would it have been better to find something clunkier but more precise, a la "protection of personal information"? Probably not, since it would have made the text much drier.

Edited 2015-09-02 16:18 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

acrobar,

As a curiosity, gender on nouns and adjectives are a source of many mistakes on translations, there is not simple rule on that, it is case by case.


Any time this subject comes up, I always think it's silly that languages adopted arbitrary gender identities for objects.

At least in English the gender phenomenon is contained to certain pronouns. Plural pronouns don't have a gender, the identity pronoun doesn't have a gender, it's only there when singly referring to someone else. When someone is speaking of pets, it can get away with simply using "it", however it's considered improper to use "it" when referring to a person. So when he doesn't know the gender, sometimes he just uses "he" knowing that everybody will overlook the gender bias in his words. But if a person is really bothered about unintentional gender bias, sometimes he/she can refer to his/her subject with both pronoun genders. Alternately one can sometimes use generic pronoun substitutions to refer to one's subject. What some people do is to just avoid referring to people in the singular sense, which lets them avoid this problem all together.

Edited 2015-09-02 16:45 UTC

Reply Score: 3

cfgr Member since:
2009-07-18

Any time this subject comes up, I always think it's silly that languages adopted arbitrary gender identities for objects.

I don't know about other languages, but in Dutch I can quite accurately tell what gender a noun has (even though the article for m/f is the same and we pretty much never use gender specific declinations anywhere). I think it depends on the pronunciation, it's pretty hard to describe, but it definitely doesn't feel arbitrary.

This becomes more obvious in the Dutch/Flemish dialects where one could say "die kast" (=closet, female) but "diene(n) stoel" (=chair, male). "Dienen kast" just doesn't feel right. I really can't explain why but this trick works 100% of the time (tested with my Dutch girlfriend who can't tell), even for uncommon and new words, so it's unlikely to be a random thing.

I don't have the same feeling for other languages but couldn't that be similar there?

Edited 2015-09-02 20:00 UTC

Reply Score: 2

cropr Member since:
2006-02-14

Another way to tell the gender in Dutch (without dialect) is to translate a sentence like: "the government takes its responsability". In Enlgish the word government has no gender so we write "its" when we relate to the government. For male persons we relate with the word "his", for female words with the word "her".

In the Netherlands this sentence translates to "de regering neemt zijn verantwoordelijkheid", where "zijn" is male, so "regering" is seen as a male word.

In Belgium this sentence becomes: "de regering neemt haar verantwoordelijkjheid", where "haar" is female because regering is seen as a female word.

In fact the word "regering" has historically been female. Only in the Netherlands people don't realize this anymore because the above sentence is the only language construction where there is still a difference between male and female nouns. As this is not often used, the Dutch forgot that "regering" is female. Apparently Belgians have a better memory.

Reply Score: 1

WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

You might like the fact that Finnish doesn't have any gender nouns whatsoever.

Reply Score: 2

yea, nay, and password
by desafinado on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 16:15 UTC
desafinado
Member since:
2015-09-02

Knowing several natural languages may make you a more effective user of several languages, but that isn't obvious -- in fact, it's very hard to understand -- when you're monolingual.

Sometimes, unexpectedly, when you know more than one natural language, you get flashes of understanding across different languages that are applicable to all languages by improving your choice of words to more effectively express what you want to say with greater, more exquisite, accuracy and attention to meaning, nuance, and connotation.

I'm not persuaded that knowing more than one programming language alone aids or improves a programmer's art because I've seen the ruins left behind by the zeal of converts to new programming languages after attempts to force one programming language into the mold of another. Nevertheless, the acquisition of a new paradigm may prove beneficial in new programs in programming languages that do not directly support that paradigm although success will depend on the domain, the application, and the programmer's level of mastery of his art.

As for the convergence of natural dialects with exposure to the modern age, that has been in progress since the first radio program was broadcast. However, some dialects exist for a reason which is to easily identify membership in a social class. Those won't disappear soon. Think of those dialects as special passwords that may be impossible to fake full-time in realtime.

Question: What is the difference between a dialect and a language?
Answer: A language is a dialect with an army.

Reply Score: 2

Old but still here...
by Ex-NCR on Wed 2nd Sep 2015 17:36 UTC
Ex-NCR
Member since:
2015-03-06

Great article. One of the most articulate and thought provoking articles I have read in a long time; especially in this age of 140 characters per message. If I may... I speak and think in only English. I have an AM in Philosophy of Education and studied theology for several years, thus I am very familiar with both Greek and Hebrew. However, I never really learned another language, not that I didn't try, but I found it incredibly difficult and time consuming. My best shot was Hebrew. That said, after all that I became enamored with technology. I started out as a CoBol programmer and over the years learned Basic Assembly Language (so I could actually read a dump), Basic, Visual Basic, dBase, RPG, some C and some Java. I wound up in management but kept my hand in programming by writing utilities to help my team function more smoothly.
The concept that the more languages one knows; programming or otherwise, sounds good. But, is there not a fundamental reason for being that drives all language? Why did I use CoBol when I could have used BAL or Algol or ForTran? Why do you use C++ when you could us Visual Basic? Are the structures different? Is one better for a particular hardware set? Is one easier or more efficient? I think the answer may be deeper... We are, after all, human beings and most of us are of above average intelligence. Thus we tend to believe we can improve on the status quo. Hello? We really do believe we can do it better than the the last person that tried it. For instance, I can write fully structured graphics programs in CoBol. In fact, I was writing totally modular CoBol programs with reusable subroutines, in 1972. But, would that make any sense today? No! One can accomplish the same thing in one tenth the code in C++ or Python and no one is concerned that the secretary can't read the code (oh, are there secretaries any more?).
Anyhow, thanks for the article. Fun stuff and great to read articles of substance.

Edited 2015-09-02 17:38 UTC

Reply Score: 2

GavinWraith
Member since:
2010-03-18

An aspect of programming languages which seems to me to be often overlooked, is how easy is it to get a useful mental picture of a program's operational semantics? Our mental pictures are bound to be oversimplifications of what is going on in the computer, but they can still help us in formulating algorithms. For example, I never really understood OOP concepts until I learned to use Lua, which is not an OOP language.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Fri 4th Sep 2015 08:40 UTC
kaiwai
Member since:
2005-07-06

Reminds me very much of completing my degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies. When writing a philosophical essay the need to define terms right at the beginning to ensure that the reader and I are on the same page in terms of understanding that when I use a particular term the context in which the term is going to be used. When it comes to English, it is unique given its decentralised bastardised adhoc way in which the language has developed when compared to attempts such as in French you have the Académie Française trying to rule the language with an iron fist which more or less puts the language in a state of rigor mortis - the lack of dynamism and adaptation not to mention the creation of new words organically from the ground up then propagated through all levels of society. The advent of the internet has sped that up where localised colloquialisms once locked to particular region are now appearing on line and then being adopted.

I also like what unclefester regarding English speakers being multiligual given the basis of English is a weird hybrid of 'all of the above' with the net result is rather than the walled garden Académie Française approach to development, new words are added all the time. The language is evolving, changing and morphing. This is what attracts so many people to learn English beyond just 'getting a job' - the 'excitement' (for the lack of a better word) of the language itself. It's like the GNU bizarre where there are lots of people experimenting and trying out new things; some are adopted but some remain a regional oddity. Yes there is chaos but there is also innovation and optimism for the future.

Reply Score: 2