Is Python the Esperanto of programming languages?

Peter Hansen peter at engcorp.com
Fri Mar 21 06:00:57 CET 2003


"Greg Ewing (using news.cis.dfn.de)" wrote:
> 
> Konrad Hinsen wrote:
> > Every natural language has redundancy, and it can be argued that this is a
> > necessary feature for communication in non-optimal conditions.
> 
> I don't know much about Chinese, but from what I've heard
> it's largely lacking things like genders, singular/plural
> distinctions, agreements, etc. If that's true, it would
> seem to be a lot less redundant than most European languages.
> Yet Chinese people seem to use it quite successfully as
> a natural language.
> 
> So is redundancy (at the grammatical level, at least) so
> necessary in a natural language after all?

"Use it quite successfully" and "so necessary" are terms which 
imply that this issue is black and white.  It's actually all
relative, as are most things (to some degree or another ;-).

Is Chinese more or less able to be used for reliable 
communication in a noisy channel (viz information theory)?

*That* would be one correct way to judge the value of 
redundancy, not a simple "it's successful", I think.  There
may be other dimensions along which we can measure, but in
all cases it's more or less, not yes or no.

> An analogy with Python (just to inject a tiny bit of
> on-topicness) might be the way Python seems to do without
> much of the extraneous punctuation (semicolons, curly
> braces, etc.) that other languages seem to be so fond
> of. Python demonstrates that you don't really need such
> things, and in fact the code can be clearer without
> them.

Yes, but in a similar manner it is perhaps more "brittle" in 
the face of possible damage caused by noise.  Luckily, we are
now talking about a computer environment and can count as one 
assumption that we have a perfectly noise-free channel, unlike
when the discussion involves natural languages.

-Peter




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