[Edu-sig] Now I went and did it.

Fred Yankowski fred@ontosys.com
Mon, 9 Oct 2000 10:24:35 -0500

When learning the German language many years ago, my first language
being English, I found it confusing how the verbs tended to end up
near the end of sentences -- almost a "postfix" syntax.  But it
started to seem more natural, or at least comfortable, after a while.
Perhaps there are natural languages where the verb tends to come

Or is the prefix structure really that foreign?

   (define (square x) (* x x))

   Define the "square of x" to be the product of x and x.

I've used Lisp and its ilk on and off over many years, and I don't
find it that hard to shift gears between "Python mode" and "Lisp
mode".  It's harder for me to switch amongst Python, Javascript, PHP,
Java, etc because I forget details like how to express a false or null
value in the particular language.

Millions of people use HP calculators with their RPN notation.  That
doesn't speak directly to prefix notation, but certainly suggests that
people can learn another syntax without much problem -- even if there
is something about our innate linguistic skills that favors some
particular syntax.

On Sun, Oct 08, 2000 at 04:15:41PM -0400, Jason Cunliffe wrote:
> This last one is very tricky I know because English is my mother tongue so I
> cannot really know how does programming syntax feel to people around the
> world from different subject-object-verb systems?
> I get a glimpse only from use and study of other spoken languages and when
> speaking with non-English speakers.

Fred Yankowski           fred@OntoSys.com      tel: +1.630.879.1312
Principal Consultant     www.OntoSys.com       fax: +1.630.879.1370
OntoSys, Inc             38W242 Deerpath Rd, Batavia, IL 60510, USA