Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the illuminating response,

On 22 February 2011 03:39, Andrew Walenstein <walen...@ieee.org> wrote:
> Even if you don't like these two arguments, surely most would admit that
> *one* of the primary purposes of good programming languages is human-human
> communication.   In fact, this was an essential point of the title of Peter
> Naur's collection "Computing:  A Human Activity".  In this narrow sense
> programming languages and natural languages are not incomparable.

I hadn't read Peter Naur's work before, and am now very much enjoying
what I can find.  I've just got my hands on a copy of the collection
you cite, and it includes the following:

  "PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES ARE NOT LANGUAGES--WHY 'PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE'
IS A MISLEADING DESIGNATION"
http://www.naur.com/comp/c8-4.html

This seems very relevant to this discussion!  Although Naur thinks
computing is a human activity, Naur doesn't appear to think that
programming languages are languages.

After a quick read his argument seems to be that grammar rules are not
important to language, but that speech is the primary form of
language, and that speech is ungrammatical.  Language then is not a
thing that can be specified, but rather something you do, by speaking.
 He asserts that dictionaries and the like are unimportant, and people
demonstrably don't understand each other's utterances anyway, at least
not very far.  That is, that meaning is a personal matter.

He doesn't directly answer the question "Are programming languages
languages?", except in the title of the essay.  But his point of view
seems to be in accordance with the Wittgenstein programming languages
are suburbs line, that programming languages are a "special, limited
part of the linguistic possibilities, deliberately designed to cater
for certain limited situations and purposes."

Perhaps someone more familiar with Naur's work would disagree with my
summary however.

Best wishes,

alex

-- 
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).

Reply via email to