What is Expresiveness in a Computer Language?

Discussion in 'Perl Misc' started by Xah Lee, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. Xah Lee

    Xah Lee Guest

    What is Expresiveness in a Computer Language

    20050207, Xah Lee.

    In languages human or computer, there's a notion of expressiveness.

    English for example, is very expressive in manifestation, witness all
    the poetry and implications and allusions and connotations and
    dictions. There are a myriad ways to say one thing, fuzzy and warm and
    all. But when we look at what things it can say, its power of
    expression with respect to meaning, or its efficiency or precision, we
    find natural languages incapable.

    These can be seen thru several means. A sure way is thru logic,
    linguistics, and or what's called Philosophy of Languages. One can also
    glean directly the incapacity and inadequacy of natural languages by
    studying the artificial language lojban, where one realizes, not only
    are natural languages incapable in precision and lacking in efficiency,
    but simply a huge number of things are near impossible to express thru
    them.

    One thing commonly misunderstood in computing industry is the notion of
    expressiveness. If a language has a vocabulary of (smile, laugh, grin,
    giggle, chuckle, guffaw, cackle), then that language will not be as
    expressive, as a language with just (severe, slight, laugh, cry). The
    former is "expressive" in terms of nuance, where the latter is
    expressive with respect to meaning.

    Similarly, in computer languages, expressiveness is significant with
    respect to semantics, not syntactical variation.

    These two contrasting ideas can be easily seen thru Perl versus Python
    languages, and as one specific example of their text pattern matching
    capabilities.

    Perl is a language of syntactical variegations. Python on the other
    hand, does not even allow changes in code's indentation, but its
    efficiency and power in expression, with respect to semantics,
    showcases Perl's poverty in specification.

    http://xahlee.org/perl-python/what_is_expresiveness.html

    © Copyright 2005 by Xah Lee.

    Xah

    ∑ http://xahlee.org/
    Xah Lee, Jul 10, 2005
    #1
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  2. Xah Lee

    raptor Guest

    I think u are wrong.. I think perl is much more exrpressive in
    semantics than Python..
    raptor, Jul 10, 2005
    #2
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  3. On Sun, 10 Jul 2005 07:20:34 -0700, raptor wrote:

    > I think u are wrong.. I think perl is much more exrpressive in
    > semantics than Python..


    Well, with such great command of natural language as you are displaying,
    how could anyone argue with your conclusion?

    --
    Steven.
    Steven D'Aprano, Jul 10, 2005
    #3
  4. Xah Lee

    Pete Barrett Guest

    On 10 Jul 2005 02:57:04 -0700, "Xah Lee" <> wrote:

    >Similarly, in computer languages, expressiveness is significant with
    >respect to semantics, not syntactical variation.
    >

    It may just be me, but I tend to think of a computer language as a
    tool for directing computers to perform specific actions. Do we talk
    about the expressiveness of a spade?

    There's a similar concept in the 'possible uses' of a tool (a spade is
    an excellent tool for digging the garden, but you wouldn't use it to
    clean your teeth; you *could* use a toothbrush to dig the garden, but
    you wouldn't if a spade was available). Similarly with computer
    languages - some are better for certain tasks than others, but I don't
    think 'expressiveness' is the way to describe that.

    Pete Barrett
    Pete Barrett, Jul 10, 2005
    #4
  5. Xah Lee wrote:
    > What is Expresiveness in a Computer Language[...]


    Just for the records at Google et.al. in case someone stumbles across Xah's
    masterpieces in the future:
    Xah is very well known as the resident troll in many NGs and his
    'contributions' are less then useless.

    Best is to just ignore him.

    But for heaven's sake unless you want to embarrass yourself really badly
    don't take any of his postings serious because he has proven again and again
    that he has no clue whatsoever about computer science or programming.

    jue
    Jürgen Exner, Jul 10, 2005
    #5
  6. In article <>,
    Pete Barrett <> wrote:
    >On 10 Jul 2005 02:57:04 -0700, "Xah Lee" <> wrote:
    >
    >>Similarly, in computer languages, expressiveness is significant with
    >>respect to semantics, not syntactical variation.
    >>

    >It may just be me, but I tend to think of a computer language as a
    >tool for directing computers to perform specific actions. Do we talk
    >about the expressiveness of a spade?


    Most people think of natural language as "a tool for directing people to
    perform specific actions" and have as much need for anything beyond that as
    you seem to have.

    Luckily, some people (writers, artists) are able to do more with natural
    language than boss people around. But make no mistake, that is its primary
    purpose.
    Kenny McCormack, Jul 10, 2005
    #6
  7. Steven D'Aprano <> writes:

    >On Sun, 10 Jul 2005 07:20:34 -0700, raptor wrote:
    >
    >> I think u are wrong.. I think perl is much more exrpressive in
    >> semantics than Python..

    >
    >Well, with such great command of natural language as you are displaying,
    >how could anyone argue with your conclusion?


    Folks, Xah Lee is a known troll.. don't get into any arguments among
    yourselves over anything that person writes.

    mkb.
    Matthias Buelow, Jul 10, 2005
    #7
  8. [Peter Barret wrote:]
    > It may just be me, but I tend to think of a computer language as a
    > tool for directing computers to perform specific actions. Do we talk
    > about the expressiveness of a spade?


    yes, it is just you. :)

    Your comparison is a very poor match. How can you even begin to
    compare a hammer or a screwdriver with a computer language?

    A more apt comparison would be a Roman general with his spade directing
    his troops to attack. Some generals have more expresiveness than
    others. The barbar generals will just grunt while the French generals
    will inspire with some poetic invocation.

    -Ramon
    Ramon F Herrera, Jul 11, 2005
    #8
  9. Xah Lee

    Randy Howard Guest

    Keith Thompson wrote
    (in article <>):


    > \||||/ | | \| __\,,\ /,,/__
    > \||/ | | | jgs (______Y______)
    > /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\//\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
    > ==============================================================


    Out of curiosity, does anyone remember who 'jgs' refers to
    above?


    --
    Randy Howard (2reply remove FOOBAR)
    Randy Howard, Jul 11, 2005
    #9
  10. Randy Howard wrote:

    > Out of curiosity, does anyone remember who 'jgs' refers to
    > above?


    A Google search for "ascii art jgs" shows it's Joan Stark.

    --
    Erik Max Francis && && http://www.alcyone.com/max/
    San Jose, CA, USA && 37 20 N 121 53 W && AIM erikmaxfrancis
    The decree is the Sultan's; the mountains are ours.
    -- Dadaloglu
    Erik Max Francis, Jul 11, 2005
    #10
  11. Randy Howard wrote:
    > Keith Thompson wrote
    > (in article <>):
    >
    >
    > > \||||/ | | \| __\,,\ /,,/__
    > > \||/ | | | jgs (______Y______)
    > > /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\//\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
    > > ==============================================================

    >
    > Out of curiosity, does anyone remember who 'jgs' refers to
    > above?


    Joan "Spunk" Stark, the author of quite a bit of ascii art, consult
    google for examples.

    Robert Gamble
    Robert Gamble, Jul 11, 2005
    #11
  12. > The barbar generals will just grunt while the French generals
    > will inspire with some poetic invocation.


    For auction:
    One authentic French army-issued rifle.
    Only dropped once.

    --Paul
    Paul Bilnoski, Jul 11, 2005
    #12
  13. Xah Lee

    CBFalconer Guest

    Paul Bilnoski wrote:
    >
    >> The barbar generals will just grunt while the French generals
    >> will inspire with some poetic invocation.

    >
    > For auction:
    > One authentic French army-issued rifle. Only dropped once.


    What has that got to do with the king of the elephants?

    --
    "If you want to post a followup via groups.google.com, don't use
    the broken "Reply" link at the bottom of the article. Click on
    "show options" at the top of the article, then click on the
    "Reply" at the bottom of the article headers." - Keith Thompson
    CBFalconer, Jul 11, 2005
    #13
  14. Xah Lee

    Default User Guest

    Randy Howard wrote:
    > Keith Thompson wrote
    > (in article <>):
    >
    >
    > > \||||/ | | \| __\,,\ /,,/__
    > > \||/ | | | jgs (______Y______)
    > > /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\//\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
    > > ==============================================================

    >
    > Out of curiosity, does anyone remember who 'jgs' refers to
    > above?



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Stark



    Brian
    Default User, Jul 11, 2005
    #14
  15. Xah Lee

    Xah Lee Guest

    Xah Lee, Jul 12, 2005
    #15
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