...now on my laptop...

Wednesday, 2003-4-16

lojban, C++, conflation and complexity

Shae Matijs Erisson ("the scannedinavian") made a mention of Lojban on the PragProg List yesterday.

My reply ...

On Tuesday, Apr 15, 2003, at 19:25 US/Pacific, Shae Matijs Erisson wrote:
> What about Lojban ( http://www.lojban.org ) as un-natural language of
> the year?

"E'osai ko sarji la lojban," as they say. I lived in San Diego in the mid-1970's and worked with the late James Cooke Brown for a time. I wrote the first version of a yacc grammar for Loglan as it existed then; JCB wanted a tool to help verify that the language was at least syntactically unambiguous. Scott Burson added some cool tricks to make the grammar more usable.

> Has anyone else here given thought to a spoken programming language?
> Do you think lojban would be a good candidate?

I thought (and wrote here: http://radio.weblogs.com/0100945/2002/11/24.html) that lojban might be more easily able to do what RDF is trying to do.

I'm less enthusiastic about spoken languages for programming. For me, programming seems too visual an activity. Sound cuts down one's bandwidth too much. Much of the time programming (especially legacy software of various kinds) is spent looking at and re-reading sections of code, which includes a lot of eyeballing, searching and skimming.

Oddly, just today one of my weblog referrers was from a (non-Google) search for the words "artificial language LOGLAND". That search found this most un-natural page: http://radio.weblogs.com/0100945/2002/10/10.html#a300

> Do you think a spoken programming language is a good idea?

If so, Lojban might indeed be a better place to start than most of the other speakable languages out there. But ... no, I don't, really.

— Doug L.

Additional notes:

  • Last year when I was seeking work, one of my more promising interviews was with the company that Scott Burson works for now. (At least, I think he's still there.)
  • To my mind, Lojban is the most LISP-like of the constructed languages that I've seen. It combines what we (English speakers) call "verbs", "nouns", "adjectives", and "adverbs" into a notion of "predicate". Very elegant, grammar-wise.
  • Here's the first few constructed language catalogs that come up in a Google search:

  • I liked C++ in the 1980's (I read the "C with Classes" somewhere around 1981) and even a little bit into the 90's. But one of the first things I thought was a big mistake was making "class" and "struct" (and, later, "interface/protocol") the same concept. One result was that C++'s "class" concept became an ungodly complicated mess, conflating a bunch of different ideas under one family of keywords. The conflation of ideas that lojban does is somewhat similar, but in lojban it feels much more like it helps — simplifies things — rather than complicating things.

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