ideas: technology
Spoken versus programming languages

This article is about the similarities and differences of programming and spoken languages and the evolution of them.
A language is used to permit communication between entities. Programming languages are used as a form of communication

 
between a programmer and a computer.
Maybe programmers don’t change that much, but computers and programming environments do. To understand this it is good to compare the evolution of them.
 
How do you change a programming language? You find out something grandiose, you make a few articles in a programming magazine and you send a letter to a group or a consortium to issue this idea to the language. In the consortium they stick together their heads and finally they decide if they accept it, or not. If they do, the next compilers will immediately contain the changes. This takes about a half a year. There are enough programmers with grandiose ideas, so about each half a year(one year) you will see this happen. Plus you will see how a compiler is changing with each and every release. So maybe the core of a programming language is not changing, but you can be sure that by a “living” language you will see totally new concepts and commands and possibilities in each year. If you want to follow the language you have to study these things. Each year you have to devote some time to study these.

On the contrary the spoken languages are quite constant. Imagine what do you have to do to change a spoken language. Millions
 
are speaking it each day. Just to let them know some changes, you have to issue that much publication and make sure each of them reads it what is impossible. Besides you cannot make a change in a spoken language. More like you can recognize a change what is happening or you can help people to speak a little bit more easily. The usual method starts like by the programming languages. You write articles to an accredited linguistic(language science) magazine and you write a proposal to the linguistic department of the academy of your country. They will discuss, discuss, discuss for years and finally they will decide. (If you are lucky, you still live this time.) But if they accept it they have to let the rest of the country know these changes. They issue the changes in a few orders, what is coming down in the linguistics magazines. But the linguistic magazines are read by maximum a few thousand people. So they still have the job to promote all this for years for all the others. Change the school system, give out books about the new system and more importantly, change the thinking of all the people.
 
So maybe fifty, sixty years later the 90 percent of the population will speak the new version. But you can be sure you will find books even a century later with the old language.
Of course there are new styles of speech around and they are very “cool”. They change in each few years, but only a little percentage is using it often. You don’t find these in the dictionaries, you find these only in slang dictionaries.

As a conclusion we can say that you will experience this “new grammar” thing once in your lifetime. Besides you won't have so much problem if you speak only the old one. So I consider spoken languages static.
 
What do I do with this piece of information? You know, my native language(Hungarian) is not (yet) a world language, so I have to study languages. If I would invest all my time to programming languages I would be a very good programmer, but big part of my knowledge would go obsolete in each year. Instead I invest time to study spoken languages, because they are static while I’m still maintaining enough technical knowledge to survive as a programmer.

Zürich, 17. June, 2001
 
Published on zbalai.com in 2004.