December 12, 2004

Hypocrisy

Yesterday I said that "if it's not C++ then it must be a scripting language" was a false dichotomy. I think I am guilty of a false dichotomy, actually a "false trichotomy". I have been thinking in terms of "C++ and higher level languages". Of course it follows that there should be languages that are lower level than C++. So I am categorizing languages in terms of being C++, being lower level or being higher level. This is clearly wrong.

Is Pascal lower level than C++? In a sense it is, because C++ has higher-level features like OO and templates that Pascal does not. However, Pascal has features like runtime checking on array bounds that C++ does not. According to the model I have been using, this would make Pascal a higher level language. So we have a contradiction. It is clear to me now that my model is wrong. Perhaps because I spend so much time programming in C++, I have a very C++-centric perspective.

From now on I am going to try to think in terms of "C++ and other languages". And when my understanding of other languages is sufficient, I will try and just think in terms of languages and how they compare. C++ will just be one of the other languages.

Does "higher-level language" mean anything? It is certainly part of our lexicon. In a sense it means something. Who would argue that 68000 assembly was a higher-level language than Lisp? But perhaps that is because there is not a single feature of 68000 assembly that makes it higher-level than Lisp.

I think it is reasonable to say that one language is higher-level than another with respect to a particular feature set. So we can say that C++ is higher-level than Pascal with respect to OO and that Pascal is higher-level than C++ with respect to arrays.

Comments:
I agree Al!
Like when someone says "Oh, he's intelligent!" what intelligence are they muttering about? Is it that they are intelligent with math, language, psychology, machines? Just like programming languages, they have strengths in some areas, weaknesses in others. Perhaps this is a universal law? Indeed, some people are funny, some dour, some inspiring, others repellant. Strengths and weaknesses. The glue is where their strengths are needed. Like someone being good at languages and with lots of moxy would be a better diplomat than say, an accountant (generally speaking), maybe.
 
And indeed, what is strength and what is weakness? Hi there! Thanks for commenting on my blog.
 
Well to me, a strength is an element which brings value to the table, creating added value to the next step of a process; whereas a weakness is an element which decreases value from the next step. So the loop in say Fortran would be a strength compared to the several steps in assembler. A weakness may also be when a strength is absent as opposed to adding a negative to a process. So not having 'case' as in a higher level language, would be a negative by ommission in assembler. If you know what I mean .. :)
 
hmmm, interesting that .. re C++ v other languages and the temptation, albeit an unwitting development, to make biased comparisons in favour of the language your most familiar with ... and that the link is probably one's familiarity with the 'favoured' language. it's the same thing with the spoken language. we're always inclined to believe that the language we speak, in our case, English, is the best, most appropriate, most useful, most applicable, the most frequently used ... &c. but that's because so many of the English-speaking community ... and it's not the most commonly-spoken language in the world, regardless of our commonly-held misconceptions... are monoglot speakers. monoglots never have reason to
consider any perspective other than their own. it's incredible how that attitude changes when you take onboard another language. an amazing shift takes place and you realise, unless you're awful dense, that different languages bring different dimensions into play.

Robert & I were on about the frequency with which other languages appear on the web. many think English is by far the most common! why? because a monoglot English speaker has no reason to type a foreign word into the browser! paste the following into your browser in turn .. all different languages but meaning the same thing [**see below if your computer can't read the Persian type script or ideographic language words] -- news -- Neuigkeit -- νέα -- perkabaran -- 便り -- nouvelles -- たより -- новость -- noviny -- اخبار -- notizie -- חדשות -- naidheachd -- Once you do that, a whole new world of websites opens up to you. Good, eh! if it wasn't for the fact that I speak another language doubtless i, too, would have been under the impression that English was theeee language of technology and the web and everything else.

**to make a totally fair comparison .. or as fair as I could anyway with only a simple personal home-based computer as my tool of research .. I decided to use the word 'news' as being a subject common to all cultures and to that end, I visited a favourite [of mine] on-line dictionary:
http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/
and typed in 'news' [English language] and scrolled down to the 'modern translations' - about ¾ of the way down the page. I then selected and copied a variety of translations including those using oriental ideograms, Persian and Greek type script. i copied the selection into a doc file making sure that I was choosing the most appropriate translation. Words, familiar and obvious though they may be to us, don't necessarily translate into another language with the exact meaning that we have for them. Having collected a fair few, I fed them, one after the other, into the browser … and bingo. There were loads of sites all written in the language of the original. So if your computer can't read the scripts represented here, I suggest you try the above if you need to see to believe! :-).

some of those languages have words in common with Gaelic -- they don't mean the same thing, they just happen to be spelt the same ... by accident of linguistic evolution. It all started when I typed one of those into the browser and immediately become aware of the volume of other languages that are out there using the web. great, isn't it! :-)) it keeps speakers of those languages in contact with one another .. through the medium of their own language .. regardless of where they live. … how vane and big-headed we are to make that assumption that English is theee language! The only trouble is, there are all those fascinating languages out there and I don't know what they're saying :-(

wouldn't it be great to speaks heaps of different languages.. :-) just to be able to change to suit whoever you were speaking to. … mmm, but I'm a bit too old to start that now. Need to wait till my next time around :-)) .. right, that's it decided. in my next life ... if the world hasn't been blown to smithereens [as the bible is reckoned to suggest is due to happen in 2006! ... :-( .. according to some!] then i'm going to be a linguist! :-))

Platinum Mother xxx
 
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