nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Comparing natural and computer languages

is about what might be said about computer languages to people who are primarily interested in linguistics.

The comments include an essay by Djikstra which has two snarky gems....
They blamed the mechanical slave for its strict obedience with which it carried out its given instructions, even if a moment's thought would have revealed that those instructions contained an obvious mistake. "But a moment is a long time, and thought is a painful process." (A.E.Houseman).

It was a significant improvement that now many a silly mistake did result in an error message instead of in an erroneous answer. (And even this improvement wasn't universally appreciated: some people found error messages they couldn't ignore more annoying than wrong results, and, when judging the relative merits of programming languages, some still seem to equate "the ease of programming" with the ease of making undetected mistakes.)

and one dubious claim:
As a result of the educational trend away from intellectual discipline, the last decades have shown in the Western world a sharp decline of people's mastery of their own language: many people that by the standards of a previous generation should know better, are no longer able to use their native tongue effectively, even for purposes for which it is pretty adequate. (You have only to look at the indeed alarming amount of on close reading meaningless verbiage in scientific articles, technical reports, government publications etc.) This phenomenon --known as "The New Illiteracy"-- should discourage those believers in natural language programming that lack the technical insight needed to predict its failure.

For those of you who have a sufficiently long and attentive baseline, whether it's personal experience or through study, do you think people produce more nonsense than they used to, or is it just that the nonsense is more informal and untidy?

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