From Universal to Programming Languages
F. Gobbo1 H. Durnov´a2
1Universiteit van Amsterdam
F.Gobbo@uva.nl
2Masaryk Univers...
Introduction
Computation, language and computation
History of computation and history of language and communication
are intertwined fro...
The use of ‘language’ in CS
All programming language are different from human languages, being
being taylored for human-mac...
Lesson learnt from the road from Leibniz to Turing
The history of the origins of modern computation is an attempt to
reduc...
Purposes of our paper
Thesis: the quest of universality in languages proceeded in parallel
with the foundation of computat...
Outline
Universal languages and the scientific revolution
7 / 31
Outline
Universal languages and the scientific revolution
Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century
7 / 31
Outline
Universal languages and the scientific revolution
Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century
Taxonomies ...
Outline
Universal languages and the scientific revolution
Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century
Taxonomies ...
Outline
Universal languages and the scientific revolution
Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century
Taxonomies ...
Universal languages and
the scientific revolution
The importance of Real Characters
The discovery of the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations
greatly influenced Englis...
Philosophical languages are perfect and universal
Philosophical languages are artificial and share two features:
1. interna...
The two destinies of Leibniz
Leibniz called his philosophical language universal characteristic
(characteristica universal...
Logicians
and universal languages
in the 20th century
Paris, 1900
In the year 1900, Paris hosted:
the international congress of mathematicians, where Hilbert
presented his prog...
Two research programmes in parallel
Russell (by far the youngest of the three) got acquainted with the
mathematical logic ...
Louis Couturat
In the years 1900-1907 Couturat was active in the Esperanto
movement, and in that period he gathered the su...
Couturat and his correspondents
Couturat exchanged a lot of letters with important colleagues of his
time: Gottlob Frege, ...
The years 1908-1914
Russell’s correspondence with both Couturat and Peano dwindled in
1908. In those years, Russell was pr...
The years 1908-1914
Russell’s correspondence with both Couturat and Peano dwindled in
1908. In those years, Russell was pr...
Taxonomies of
universal languages
The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau
In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published
until that time in a...
The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau
In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published
until that time in a...
The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau
In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published
until that time in a...
The taxonomy by Lyons
The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness
of languages:
natural1 are conf...
The taxonomy by Lyons
The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness
of languages:
natural1 are conf...
The taxonomy by Lyons
The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness
of languages:
natural1 are conf...
The taxonomy by Lyons
The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness
of languages:
natural1 are conf...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality
Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be
found:
unnatur...
The case-study
of Esperanto
in Computer Science
The roots of CS and Esperanto
Computer scientists looking for their own roots tend to say that the
theoretical foundations...
The roots of CS and Esperanto
Computer scientists looking for their own roots tend to say that the
theoretical foundations...
Machine translation and Esperanto
One of the pioneers of mechanical translation is the Soviet Union
scientist Petr Petrovi...
ALGOL 60
and the need for
a ‘Programmer’s Esperanto’
A Universal Language of programming?
The situation of computer programmers in the mid-1950s was
somewhat similar to the si...
Towards a new Babel of programming languages
This ‘international algebraic language’ should make programming
easier. The e...
Conclusion
A history of failures. . .
The struggle for a perfect, universal language – both in the case of
humans and machines – is d...
...is not a failure in itself
The story of the search of the perfect language is the story of a
dream and of a series of f...
Thank you for your attention!
Questions?
31 / 31
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From Universal to Programming Languages

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Presentation held in Budapest for CiE2014. With Helena Durnovà.

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From Universal to Programming Languages

  1. 1. From Universal to Programming Languages F. Gobbo1 H. Durnov´a2 1Universiteit van Amsterdam F.Gobbo@uva.nl 2Masaryk University helena.durnova@mail.muni.cz CiE 2014 — 23rd June 2014
  2. 2. Introduction
  3. 3. Computation, language and computation History of computation and history of language and communication are intertwined from the early days, as reflected in common etymology of words like: Spanish contar ‘to narrate’ and ‘to compute’; German z¨ahlen ‘to calculate’ and erz¨ahlen ‘to narrate’; etc. Also, the word ‘language’ is used abundantly in contemporary CS: SQL, for Structured Query Language; XML, for eXtensible Markup Language; PSL, for IEEE 1850 Standard for Property Specification Language; etc. 3 / 31
  4. 4. The use of ‘language’ in CS All programming language are different from human languages, being being taylored for human-machine and machine-machine information exchange. This analogy is put forward borrowing other terms used in linguistics, such as syntax and semantics of programming languages. 4 / 31
  5. 5. Lesson learnt from the road from Leibniz to Turing The history of the origins of modern computation is an attempt to reduce ambiguity in semantics and redundancy in syntax via formal, non-natural languages. For instance, George Boole introduced his laws of human thought through an example in English (quoted in Martin Davis’ book): iff x alone stands for “white things,” and y for sheep, let xy stand for “white sheep;” 5 / 31
  6. 6. Purposes of our paper Thesis: the quest of universality in languages proceeded in parallel with the foundation of computation. In the late 1950s, computer programmers were looking for their own Esperanto with ideals and enthusiasm similar to the earlier attempts to find a universal language for human communication. Case study: Esperanto, the most widely known attempt to establish a universal language, in its metaphorical use by computer specialists. 6 / 31
  7. 7. Outline Universal languages and the scientific revolution 7 / 31
  8. 8. Outline Universal languages and the scientific revolution Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century 7 / 31
  9. 9. Outline Universal languages and the scientific revolution Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century Taxonomies of universal languages 7 / 31
  10. 10. Outline Universal languages and the scientific revolution Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century Taxonomies of universal languages The Case-Study of Esperanto in Computer Science 7 / 31
  11. 11. Outline Universal languages and the scientific revolution Logicians and Universal Languages in the 20th century Taxonomies of universal languages The Case-Study of Esperanto in Computer Science Machine Translation and Esperanto 7 / 31
  12. 12. Universal languages and the scientific revolution
  13. 13. The importance of Real Characters The discovery of the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations greatly influenced English philosophers of the 17th century. Bacon studied hieroglyphs and Chinese writing, formulating the concept of real characters (in Rossi 2000): artificially constructed characters, whose significance depended only on a custom or usage which was arbitrarily established (ad placitum) and agreed upon ‘as though by a silent pact’ (tanquam pacto tacito recepti) Real characters form an artificial language free from semantic ambiguities: characters represent reality directly as concepts instead of sounds. 9 / 31
  14. 14. Philosophical languages are perfect and universal Philosophical languages are artificial and share two features: 1. internal perfection, crystal clear shape, described in logical terms, 2. external universality, being neutral in ethnic and cultural terms. The most influent ones were proposed by: Francis Lodowick, George Dalgarno, John Wilkins, Comenius. 10 / 31
  15. 15. The two destinies of Leibniz Leibniz called his philosophical language universal characteristic (characteristica universalis), in direct contrast with Wilkins’ real characters. In other words, symbols (‘characters’) should represent the alphabet and calculational tools of human thinking, which is ‘universal’ instead of ‘real’. Martin Davis claims that Leibniz’s idea influenced logicians such as George Boole and Gottlob Frege, eventually giving the foundations of Hilbert’s programme. However, even if Leibniz’s ‘general language’ (lingua generalis) was composed in 1678, his work deeply influenced European mathematicians and logicians only after the publication of previously unknown works, in 1903. 11 / 31
  16. 16. Logicians and universal languages in the 20th century
  17. 17. Paris, 1900 In the year 1900, Paris hosted: the international congress of mathematicians, where Hilbert presented his programme; the international congress of philosophy. There were three people who attended both events: Bertrand Russell, Louis Couturat, Giuseppe Peano. 13 / 31
  18. 18. Two research programmes in parallel Russell (by far the youngest of the three) got acquainted with the mathematical logic of Peano and his school. Couturat presented the movement for the adoption of an international auxiliary language to the community of philosophers as the descendant of the ideas of Leibniz and the English philosophers of the 17th century. 14 / 31
  19. 19. Louis Couturat In the years 1900-1907 Couturat was active in the Esperanto movement, and in that period he gathered the support of 310 academic and professional societies, and 1,250 university professors and scholars. He led this support through a Delegation, which decided that Esperanto should be reformed in order to be adopted as the definitive form of the international auxiliary language. 15 / 31
  20. 20. Couturat and his correspondents Couturat exchanged a lot of letters with important colleagues of his time: Gottlob Frege, Henri Poincar´e, ´Emil Borel. Fortunately, Couturat’s correspondence with Russell and Peano survived almost complete on both sides, and thus we can see that two main topics were common in both exchanges of letters: first, logic and the foundations of mathematics, second, international auxiliary languages. 16 / 31
  21. 21. The years 1908-1914 Russell’s correspondence with both Couturat and Peano dwindled in 1908. In those years, Russell was probably heavily involved in working on the monumental work Principia Mathematica with A. N. Whitehead. Also, he was sceptical about the auxiliary language movement pursued by the others: In 1908, Peano published the last edition of his Formulario Mathematico, written in Latino sine Flexione, a simplified version of Latin heavily influenced by Leibniz’s lingua generalis; 17 / 31
  22. 22. The years 1908-1914 Russell’s correspondence with both Couturat and Peano dwindled in 1908. In those years, Russell was probably heavily involved in working on the monumental work Principia Mathematica with A. N. Whitehead. Also, he was sceptical about the auxiliary language movement pursued by the others: In 1908, Peano published the last edition of his Formulario Mathematico, written in Latino sine Flexione, a simplified version of Latin heavily influenced by Leibniz’s lingua generalis; Couturat formed a movement in support of Ido, a reform of Esperanto, claiming it to be the result of the work by the Delegation. 17 / 31
  23. 23. Taxonomies of universal languages
  24. 24. The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published until that time in a monumental survey, according to the following categories: a-priori languages are the artificial languages built over one or more abstract principles of construction following the Baconian idea of “real characters” already illustrated above; 19 / 31
  25. 25. The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published until that time in a monumental survey, according to the following categories: a-priori languages are the artificial languages built over one or more abstract principles of construction following the Baconian idea of “real characters” already illustrated above; mixed languages borrow some structures from human languages, as for instance in Volap¨uk, the first international auxiliary language to be used in practice; 19 / 31
  26. 26. The taxonomy by Couturat and Leau In 1903 Couturat and Leau collect the universal languages published until that time in a monumental survey, according to the following categories: a-priori languages are the artificial languages built over one or more abstract principles of construction following the Baconian idea of “real characters” already illustrated above; mixed languages borrow some structures from human languages, as for instance in Volap¨uk, the first international auxiliary language to be used in practice; a-posteriori languages borrows ther structures from an existing natural language: e.g., Zamenhof’s Esperanto, Couturat’s Ido, Peano’s Latino sine Flexione. 19 / 31
  27. 27. The taxonomy by Lyons The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness of languages: natural1 are conform with nature: French, Arabic, etc. are implicitly classified here; 20 / 31
  28. 28. The taxonomy by Lyons The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness of languages: natural1 are conform with nature: French, Arabic, etc. are implicitly classified here; natural2 are constrained by nature, i.e., they are species-specific: in Chomskyan terms, all instances of the Universal Grammar; 20 / 31
  29. 29. The taxonomy by Lyons The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness of languages: natural1 are conform with nature: French, Arabic, etc. are implicitly classified here; natural2 are constrained by nature, i.e., they are species-specific: in Chomskyan terms, all instances of the Universal Grammar; natural3 are acquired by humans as a normal part of the process of maturation and socialization: e.g, sign languages such as the American Sign Language (ASL) and the British Sign Language (BSL); 20 / 31
  30. 30. The taxonomy by Lyons The linguist John Lyons proposed four ordered degrees of naturalness of languages: natural1 are conform with nature: French, Arabic, etc. are implicitly classified here; natural2 are constrained by nature, i.e., they are species-specific: in Chomskyan terms, all instances of the Universal Grammar; natural3 are acquired by humans as a normal part of the process of maturation and socialization: e.g, sign languages such as the American Sign Language (ASL) and the British Sign Language (BSL); natural4 refers to the theory of language built over the language instead of the language itself (e.g., Montague). 20 / 31
  31. 31. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: 21 / 31
  32. 32. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; 21 / 31
  33. 33. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; Boolean and predicate calculi; 21 / 31
  34. 34. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; Boolean and predicate calculi; all Turing-complete programming languages; 21 / 31
  35. 35. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; Boolean and predicate calculi; all Turing-complete programming languages; unnatural4 comprise: 21 / 31
  36. 36. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; Boolean and predicate calculi; all Turing-complete programming languages; unnatural4 comprise: Couturat and Leau’s a-posteriori languages such as Esperanto; 21 / 31
  37. 37. Artificiality as degrees of unnaturality Following Lyons’ taxonomy, two kind of “artificial” languages can be found: unnatural1,2,3 comprise the ones designed by logicians, mathematicians and computer scientists: post-Baconian a-priori universal languages; Boolean and predicate calculi; all Turing-complete programming languages; unnatural4 comprise: Couturat and Leau’s a-posteriori languages such as Esperanto; Quasi-Natural Languages (QNL) commonly constructed by linguists by deliberately their changing structural properties for experimental purposes. 21 / 31
  38. 38. The case-study of Esperanto in Computer Science
  39. 39. The roots of CS and Esperanto Computer scientists looking for their own roots tend to say that the theoretical foundations of Computer Science were posed in the same period of the debate launched by Couturat, alongwith the first reflections on Artificial Intelligence. Two cases: in 1915 the Spanish scientist Leonardo Torres y Quevedo – an active Esperantist – invoked a new science called automatique (French word for ‘automatics’), where an idea of artificial intelligence was proposed; 23 / 31
  40. 40. The roots of CS and Esperanto Computer scientists looking for their own roots tend to say that the theoretical foundations of Computer Science were posed in the same period of the debate launched by Couturat, alongwith the first reflections on Artificial Intelligence. Two cases: in 1915 the Spanish scientist Leonardo Torres y Quevedo – an active Esperantist – invoked a new science called automatique (French word for ‘automatics’), where an idea of artificial intelligence was proposed; Quevedo influenced Norbert Wiener, the founder of Cybernetics, whose father, Levi Wiener, had been a Warsaw Gymnasium schoolmate of Zamenhof, the founder of Esperanto, and himself an active Esperantist in the 1930s. 23 / 31
  41. 41. Machine translation and Esperanto One of the pioneers of mechanical translation is the Soviet Union scientist Petr Petrovich Smirnoff-Troyanskii: in 1933 he obtained a Soviet patent for a mechanical machine for translation. He borrowed the symbols of parsing from Esperanto. His work remained unknown in the Western countries for many decades. In a project called Distributed Language Translation (DLT) Esperanto played a key role. DLT was succesfully funded by Europe for a feasibility study in the years 1982-3. The engine was programmed in Prolog. A prototype was presented in 1987, while English and French were the natural language involved, the translation engine was based on Esperanto. 24 / 31
  42. 42. ALGOL 60 and the need for a ‘Programmer’s Esperanto’
  43. 43. A Universal Language of programming? The situation of computer programmers in the mid-1950s was somewhat similar to the situation of scientists at international congresses at the turn of the 20th century. The dynamics of the group of computer scientists working on ALGOL 60 resembles the Esperanto movement at that time. In 1955, in Darmstadt, computing specialists from various countries agreed that they needed to communicate more efficiently – sharing computer programs between different computers. In 1957, the American ACM (Association for the Computing Machinery) and the German GAMM (Gesellschaft f¨ur angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik) prepared proposals for a Universal Language of programming. 26 / 31
  44. 44. Towards a new Babel of programming languages This ‘international algebraic language’ should make programming easier. The effort eventually led to support ALGOL: in a lecture to undergraduates in 1960, Anton´ın Svoboda – the Czechoslovak computer pioneer – named ALGOL the “Programmer’s Esperanto”, a language every programmer should learn. In 1961 Ginsburg and Rice proved that ALGOL is not an unicum but rather a member of a family of formal, artificial languages. Their computational power - equivalent to a universal Turing machine – will be guaranteed by their description in terms of context-free grammar expressed via the Backus-Naur normal form. 27 / 31
  45. 45. Conclusion
  46. 46. A history of failures. . . The struggle for a perfect, universal language – both in the case of humans and machines – is doomed to fail: today, the de facto international language is English. instead of having one definitive programming language computer programmers should choose among thousands. 29 / 31
  47. 47. ...is not a failure in itself The story of the search of the perfect language is the story of a dream and of a series of failures. Yet that is not to say that the story of failures must itself be a failure. (Umberto Eco) Without the dream of the universal language, perhaps side-effects would not be found. 30 / 31
  48. 48. Thank you for your attention! Questions? 31 / 31
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