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

Jason Cunliffe jasonic@nomadicsltd.com
Mon, 9 Oct 2000 12:38:03 -0400

From: Fred Yankowski <fred@ontosys.com>
> 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
> first?
> 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.

Yes. Thanks.

See when you 'say' it like that I can 'read' it... and it makes perfect
Typographically I still choke a little on so many ((())).
But hey, compared to a Tibetan Mandala, it is trivial..

This connection between the writing, the reading, and our spoken language is
what I want to follow further.
It is one of the key differences having a live teacher or not. Books usually
don't offer much help in this respect.

As I see it there are three language systems at work here:

>    (define (square x) (* x x))
>    Define the "square of x" to be the product of x and x.

1 - Scheme
2 - Written mathematics/programming
3 - English word order

> 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.

Let's take cooking as an example..

- gather vegetables
- prepare some utensils
PUT water in pot
heat ADD
- wash, chop some vegetables
IF water boiling
PUT vegetables in steamer basket
cover ADD
- gather plates
WAIT till maximum bright color
SERVE immediately
 = ADD vegetables to plates

well. sorry my example is rather clumsy.. Perhasp you can provide a better

But in many real-life processes RPN is what we do. But not all..
We need vegeratbles in hand before we can cook them.
We need to have heat before we can apply it.
We need to find the cover before we can put it on the pot.

A good distinction of coloquial language is:
 Is the water boiling ?
This can be shortened to <water boiling [now]?> accompanied by various
gestures and/or vocal inflections.
This is what we must do in a foregin country when we don't speak the
Speaking with Asians also induces this quickly since there is a much more
concise approach to language - anyway compared to English and most European
languages,  no complicated prepositions. 'a' 'the' etc.. Just go for direct
placement of key words. Context will provide the rest.. Young children do
the same

hmm..I am groping here for something.. some view connecting digital cookery
and CP4E
[back later]

- Jason