Hi Richard,

This adds a lot of clarity, thanks.

On 18 February 2011 00:27, Richard O'Keefe <o...@cs.otago.ac.nz> wrote:
> On 18/02/2011, at 3:55 AM, alex wrote:
>> 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.
> It's fair enough not because of what a programming language
> *is* (or isn't) but what it can (or can't) *do*, and that
> is to exchange ordinary human thoughts with other people.

I think it's a fair argument, I'm not sure if I agree or not though.
Learning either a natural or a programming language is a huge
commitment, and I don't think it would normally be feasible to do both
while also doing a graduate course that isn't directly related.  Doing
either could have a dramatic impact on someone's career/life, so I
think I'd support letting a student choose to do one or the other on
that basis.

>>  "the ability to translate natural languages doesn't really translate
>> (as it were) to computer languages"
>> It clearly does.

I meant it was clear that you could translate between two programming
languages.  Translating from natural to programming languages is less
clear, but I'd still argue for it.

> I would have said that it clearly doesn't.
> You *can* translate
>        Yesterday Sue hoped that Bill's surviving the crash
>        would not mean her exposure as the criminal who had
>        repeatedly taken the school apples, but I fear that
>        she will be disappointed at tomorrow's meeting.
> into other human languages, even Esperanto or Klingon (if
> Klingon has a word for 'apple' or 'fear' (:-)).  But you
> can't translate it into Haskell or Ada.

I disagree.  You could literally model Sue, Bill, their attributes and
events over time quite straightforwardly.  The code would not contain
a detailed definition of what an apple, or crime is, but then neither
does the syntax of English.  A human reader of the code would get the
gist, however.  This would be use English words for symbolic
reference, but that is because there is no point in defining a whole
new lexicon mapped to human experience, not because it is not
theoretically possible, in fact your example of invented language
proves it is possible.

Alternatively you could take a different approach and focus on the
modelling of expectation and dread, perhaps in the musical domain.
For that you would in effect be modelling some aspect of human
perception within the computer language.

> You *can* translate a sentence like that into a mathematically
> defined logical form which can be represented inside a computer
> and to some extent manipulated by a computer.  But I do not see
> how the result can be usefully called a 'program'.

I suppose it would be a declarative program which doesn't describe an
procedure, but a situation.  It could be useful, for example in
generating works of art.

> I think it may be more useful to ask "in what ways are
> programming notations like, and in what ways unlike,
> natural languages".

Or perhaps where are they along a set of continuums.  Has anyone
applied the CDN to English?



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