I apologise for the incomplete message.
There was a major earthquake in the major city of this island and the
communication system is not up to speed and there are still occasional
> I'd rather argue about semantics than words.
> So let's coin a term that we might be able to agree on.
> Let's say that English and COBOL are both quasi-linguistic communication
> systems, where "quasi-linguistic" involves
- arbitrary signs
- long range agreement
- linearity is common but not absolute
- practically translatable within subgroup
- have to be learnable by human beings
- "sprachbunds" as well as lineal descent
- associated with communities
Programming languages are unambiguously quasi-linguistic communication
systems. If Chomsky is right that humans have "a language organ", it would
seem that it should really be called a "quasi-linguistic communication
system organ". If others are right that language simply uses other mental
modules we'd need anyway, then programming notations use some of the
This leads to all sorts of interesting research questions which I do not have
the knowledge or skill to pursue. (My programming experiment last year
gave me some surprises, but didn't answer the question I wanted to study.)
For example: what would we expect to see when people's brains are
imaged while they are
- reading prose
- reading Hegel
- reading verse
- reading a mathematical proof
- reading a procedure
- reading a circuit diagram
- reading a table of numbers and looking for patterns in it
? (We call all of these 'reading'...)
Dijkstra claimed that two predictors for programming ability are
an aptitude for mathematics and mastery of one's native language.
_Is_ there a correlation between language skill and programming
skill? If there is, is it simply a reflection of general intelligence, or
do both probe into quasi-linguistic communicative aptitude?
Does reading ability correlate with the ability to learn other
quasi-linguistic systems? Why does Smalltalk programming feel
more like writing English than it does like drawing circuits?
As for the ability to communicate with other people at an
"existential" level, I think anyone who has read a car service manual
will agree that natural language doesn't *always* do that.
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