On 24/02/2011, at 5:18 AM, alex wrote:
> 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"
> 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.
This is the same Naur who wrote
I cannot help expressing a feeling of awkwardness at the use of
the word language in the context "programming language."
I definitely feel that if taken literally this habit of expression
As a first step to subdue our feeling of guilt at this misuse of
the term, perhaps we can remind ourselves that logicians and
mathematicians used the word for specialized notations long before
we did, already in the 1930's, and perhaps even before.
Several of the social aspects of mathematics and natural languages
show a meaningful analogy with similar aspects of programming languages.
It therefore makes sense to extrapolate the analogy to further such
in a paper devoted to pursuing some of those analogies:
Programming Languages, Natural Languages, and Mathematics,
Peter Naur, CACM 18(12) December 1975.
> 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.
Someone who uses language to tell us something is by his actions
*denying* that meaning is a personal matter, for if it were so, he
might as well expect the same outcome from grunting and scratching
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