Programmers whos first language is not English

John Roth johnroth at
Sat Mar 8 14:01:55 CET 2003

"Stephen Horne" <intentionally at> wrote in message
news:74ij6vcebl67dto60dun42hd625qrkmcv7 at
> I'm thinking of creating my own programming language (again - but
> taking it more seriously, though the odds of it ever competing with
> Python are pretty close to zero).
> One thing I'm considering is the use of a non-ASCII source code.

Use Unicode. There are a huge number of advantages to Unicode,
including being able to represent just about all languages of any

> In particular, I'm thinking of using XML - not as an AST
> representation, but merely as a way of marking up source code. This
> would require special editors, of course, but if WYSIWYG editors can
> be created for HTML I don't see why programmers are still stuck in the
> plaintext age.

I've got two reactions to this. First, I personally consider XML to be
a horrible idea for source code.

On the other hand, I do consider that special marks for different
name spaces are the way to go. If you can pick out keywords, globals
and module level names in independent name spaces, then most of the
obdurate problems with evolving Python go away.

I also agree with your point about getting away from being stuck in
the plain text era.

> One possible use of XML might be that 'keywords' and 'symbols' could
> be stored as XML elements specifying non-language-specific tokens -
> the editor could have a local language table to recognise keywords as
> the programmer types (or could use hotkeys to insert whole keywords
> Speccy-style) and could present them on screen with colour
> highlighting. This would require little (if any) more work than
> existing syntax-highlighting editors.

Exactly. If you're going to have some mechanism to pick out keywords,
then the editor should present them in the vocabulary appropriate to
the person at the keyboard.

The bigger issue is going to be mixing modules that are in different
languages. A similar issue is whether you want to insist that all
defined in a module are in a specific language.

> I'm quite curious what other people think about this kind of idea -
> particularly people whose first language is not English.

I think parts of it are the way programming language is headed anyway.

John Roth
> --
> steve at ninereeds dot fsnet dot co dot uk

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