What is Expressiveness in a Computer Language

Marshall marshall.spight at gmail.com
Tue Jun 27 17:04:49 CEST 2006

Ketil Malde wrote:
> "Marshall" <marshall.spight at gmail.com> writes:
> > There are also what I call "packaging" issues, such as
> > being able to run partly-wrong programs on purpose so
> > that one would have the opportunity to do runtime analysis
> > without having to, say, implement parts of some interface
> > that one isn't interested in testing yet. These could also
> > be solved in a statically typed language. (Although
> > historically it hasn't been done that way.)
> I keep hearing this, but I guess I fail to understand it.  How
> "partly-wrong" do you require the program to be?
> During development, I frequently sprinkle my (Haskell) program with
> 'undefined' and 'error "implement later"' - which then lets me run the
> implemented parts until execution hits one of the 'undefined's.
> The "cost" of static typing for running an incomplete program is thus
> simply that I have to name entities I refer to.  I'd argue that this
> is good practice anyway, since it's easy to see what remains to be
> done. (Python doesn't seem to, but presumably a serious dynamically
> typed system would warn about references to entities not in scope?)

I'll give you my understanding of it, but bear in mind that I only
in statically typed languages, and I in fact do exactly what you
above: stub out unimplemented methods.

The issue is that, while stubbing out things may not be expensive,
it is not free either. There is some mental switching cost to being
in a state where one writes some code, wants to execute it, but
can't, because of type system constraints that are globally applicable
but not locally applicable to the task at hand, or to the specific
subprogram one is working on right at that moment.

Since I'm very used to doing it, it doesn't seem like an issue to
me, but programmers in dynamical languages complain bitterly
about this. It is my feeling that programming languages should
try to be inclusive, and since this feature is easily enough
accomodated, (as a 'lenient' switch to execution) it ought
to be.


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