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What is Expresiveness in a Computer Language?

 
 
Xah Lee
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      07-10-2005
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_i...esiveness.html

© Copyright 2005 by Xah Lee.

Xah
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed)
http://xahlee.org/

 
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raptor
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      07-10-2005
I think u are wrong.. I think perl is much more exrpressive in
semantics than Python..

 
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Steven D'Aprano
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      07-10-2005
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.

 
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Pete Barrett
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      07-10-2005
On 10 Jul 2005 02:57:04 -0700, "Xah Lee" <(E-Mail Removed)> 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
 
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Jrgen Exner
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      07-10-2005
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


 
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Keith Thompson
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      07-10-2005
"Xah Lee" <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> What is Expresiveness in a Computer Language
>
> 20050207, Xah Lee.


+-------------------+ .:\:\:/:/:.
| PLEASE DO NOT | :.:\:\:/:/:.:
| FEED THE TROLLS | :=.' - - '.=:
| | '=(\ 9 9 /)='
| Thank you, | ( (_) )
| Management | /`-vvv-'\
+-------------------+ / \
| | @@@ / /|,,,,,|\ \
| | @@@ /_// /^\ \\_\
@x@@x@ | | |/ WW( ( ) )WW
\||||/ | | \| __\,,\ /,,/__
\||/ | | | jgs (______Y______)
/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\//\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
================================================== ============

--
Keith Thompson (The_Other_Keith) (E-Mail Removed) <http://www.ghoti.net/~kst>
San Diego Supercomputer Center <*> <http://users.sdsc.edu/~kst>
We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this.
 
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Kenny McCormack
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      07-10-2005
In article <(E-Mail Removed)>,
Pete Barrett <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>On 10 Jul 2005 02:57:04 -0700, "Xah Lee" <(E-Mail Removed)> 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.

 
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Matthias Buelow
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      07-10-2005
Steven D'Aprano <(E-Mail Removed)> 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.
 
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Ramon F Herrera
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      07-11-2005
[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

 
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Randy Howard
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      07-11-2005
Keith Thompson wrote
(in article <(E-Mail Removed)>):


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


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


--
Randy Howard (2reply remove FOOBAR)

 
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