Hi --

30 years ago I used a lovely little language called Forth.  The manual
claimed well-written Forth was self-documenting, because you could write
programs like:


and then each component; e.g.

Once at a banquet, its creator Chuck Moore attempted nursery rhymes:

   24 0 DO  BLACKBIRD @  PIE !  LOOP

There was even a bumper sticker:
     4th (heart icon) IF HONK  THEN

One can argue it's only good for physical processes (it's mostly used for
controls, BTW).  However even poets find their native tongues insufficient
at times.  Example: Robert Burns, "To A Mouse"
http://www.robertburns.org/works/75.shtml does fine in Scottish dialect for
most of the poem, like:

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

but the philosophical parts are straight English:

I'm truly sorry man's dominion,
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

My sixpence worth ;-)


On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 9:55 AM, alex <a...@slab.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
> I found this discussion interesting:
>  http://www.bogost.com/blog/computers_are_systems_not_lang.shtml
> Ian Bogost starts off by arguing that learning a programming language
> shouldn't meet a curricular requirement for learning a natural
> language.  That's fair enough.
> However he argues on the basis that computer languages are not
> languages at all.  I don't get his argument, although may well be
> missing something.  I tried commenting on the blog post but it hasn't
> been approved, so I thought I'd look for answers with the fine members
> of PPIG.
>  "If we allow computer languages, we should allow recipes. Computer
> codes are specialized algorithms. So are recipes."
> This seems to be confusing utterances with languages.  Recipes are
> written in e.g. English.  Computer programs are written in e.g. C.
>  "the ability to translate natural languages doesn't really translate
> (as it were) to computer languages"
> It clearly does.  The point is made in the comments, that you can
> translate between computer languages, either literally or
> idiomatically.  You cannot easily translate from English to C, because
> English is full of symbolic reference e.g. to the body and its
> environment, the nuances of which are difficult to capture with
> computer modelling.  But I contend that it is possible.
> I also don't see how talking about a computer language as if it were
> natural language a mixed metaphor, if anything isn't that just plain
> metaphor?
> From the comments:
>  "[programming code is] done IN language, but it ISN'T language"
> You could say the same of poetry, surely?  I really don't understand
> what is being got at here.  Poetry is done in language, but part of
> the power is to reach beyond language in new directions.  Likewise
> code is done in language, but you can define new languages within it.
> But then I notice that it's the Cognitive Dimensions of *Notations*,
> not of languages.  I had assumed that was because programming notation
> includes not only language but other aspects such as secondary
> notation, colour highlighting, editor features and so on.  But am I
> wrong?  Am I missing the basis of a general understanding that
> computer languages aren't really languages?  If so, I am ready to be
> enlightened :)
> Best wishes
> alex
> p.s. Is the PPIG meeting in Sheffield in April still going ahead?
> --
> http://yaxu.org/
> --
> The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt
> charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302).

Dr. Howard Goodell, Sc.D.
Center for Cancer Computational Biology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the
greatest innovator.”
—Francis Bacon, Essays

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