Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 771. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2020-04-15 10:44:09+00:00 From: Willard McCarty
Subject: the 'secret' of a programming language In "Linguistic anthropology in the age of language automata", Paul Kockelman quotes from Edward Sapir's "The grammarian and his language": > All languages are set to do all the symbolic and expressive work that > language is good for, either actually or potentially. The formal > technique of this work is the 'secret' of each language. [p. 155] Sapir's 'secret' is Kockelman's target, that is, in Kockelman's terms, a language's orientation to a referent (sense) and associated feeling of orientation (sensibility). He then applies this idea to programming languages: > In particular, while any program written in any programming language > may be written in any other programming language ... it is likely > that different programming languages (not to mention interfaces, > architectures, and so forth) have different “secrets” – different > symmetries built into them (that make certain problems easier or > harder to solve), and different sensibilities disciplined by them (as > embodied in those who habitually program in them). [p. 720] Those here with a background in linguistics will recognise the principle of linguistic relativity best known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, i.e. that the structure of a language shapes the cognition of its native speakers. I would be most grateful for pointers to discussions relevant to programming languages and indeed for discussions here. It is easy to see in a vague sort of way that the 'secret' of Fortran would be very different from that of, say, Perl or R, and both of these from those of, say, ALGOL or LISP. But can we (or has anyone to your knowledge) gone further, assembled evidence, brought specific differences into focus and drawn widely applicable conclusions? Yours, WM ----- Paul Kockelman, "Linguistic anthropology in the age of language automata". In N. J. Enflield, Paul Kockelman and Jack Sidnell, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology. 708-33. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Edward Sapir, "The grammarian and his language". In Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality. Ed. David G. Mandelbaum. 150-66. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949. -- Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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