Is Python the Esperanto of programming languages?

Steven Taschuk staschuk at telusplanet.net
Fri Mar 21 16:30:32 CET 2003


Quoth Carl Banks:
> Steven Taschuk wrote:
> > Quoth Greg Ewing (using news.cis.dfn.de):
> >  [...]
> >> So is redundancy (at the grammatical level, at least) so
> >> necessary in a natural language after all?
> > 
> > Clearly *some* redundancy is necessary, for error detection and
> > correction purposes.
> 
> C'mon.  Nobody who utters a subject really needs a redundant verbal
> ending in case the subject was uttered wrongly.

Indeed, the speaker hardly ever needs redundancy; to the extent
that it is useful, it is for the listener's benefit.  (ObPython:
Like block-starting colons.)

Note also that "error" in "error detection and correction"
includes errors in transmission and interpretation, not merely
errors in utterance.

> I say redundancy is not required at all for a language, and most
> languages have very little of it.  Sometimes what looks like
> redundancy isn't really redundancy, but rather superfluousness.  For
> example, in English, if I say, "The man go to the store," no native
> listener is going to wonder what I meant.  Leaving the final sibilant
> off the word "go" sounds bad, but it doesn't affect the meaning of the
> sentence.  It's completely superfluous.

... because the information it carries is redundantly available
elsewhere in the sentence.

Suppose you do not make that error, but you speak with an
unfamiliar accent that leaves me uncertain about the vowel in
"man"; what I hear is:
    The m?n goes to the store.
I can guess "man" instead of "men" because it's "goes" and not
"go".  In this scenario the maligned sibilant carries useful
information, and isn't superfluous at all.

> However, even though redundant and superfluous lexemes are not
> required, all natural languages have them, simply as a side effect of
> language change.

Even if this explanation of redundancy's origin is correct, it
does not speak to its utility; in particular, I am not convinced
that a natural language can function with no redundancy at all.

-- 
Steven Taschuk                                     staschuk at telusplanet.net
Receive them ignorant; dispatch them confused.  (Weschler's Teaching Motto)





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