Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Extinction Of Human Languages Affects Programming?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the look-back-to-look-forward dept.

Programming 626

Tanmay Kudyadi writes "An article from NewScientist.com reports that half of all human languages will have disappeared by the end of the century, as smaller societies are assimilated into national and global cultures. This may be great news if one is looking at a common standard for communication, but it dosen't help those designing the next generation of programming languages. For example, there's an extremely strong link between Panini's Grammar and computer science (PDF link), and with every language lost, there is a possibility that we may have missed an opportunity at improving the underlying heuristics."

cancel ×

626 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

YOU COCKS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8297992)

Human Languages. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

Vote for Ralph Nader for President in 2004 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298117)

Say No to Bush and Bush Lite(John Kerry).
Vote for a true progressive and man of the people.
Not for either super-rich Yalie .

DEAN WAXES PHILOSOPHIC, IN HAIKU FORM: (-1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298168)

A stunning collapse
I trusted dirty hippies
They're fucking worthless

Especially geeks
The dirty hippy geek crowd
Not worth a thin dime

Bitter lesson learned
Dirty hippies, co-eds, geeks
Not nearly enough

Fucking losers.

The only thing left now
Hang my head in shame and put
A bullet in it.

Fucking losers.

This ruins my day. (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8297997)


Well.. that dashes all hope I had for finding a papyrus re-issue of "Babylonian C for Dummies". It's been out of print for millennia.

Re:This ruins my day. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298025)

Damn boy! I had you on my friends list because you were actually funny. And now this...

Re:This ruins my day. (5, Funny)

CyberSp00k (137333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298094)

Babylonian C was a hardware language, silly. It was produced on clay tablets. No one is ever going to trust anything that matters to papyrus.

Re:This ruins my day. (5, Funny)

jasoncart (573937) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298099)

Try archive.org or the Google cache.

Re:This ruins my day. (5, Funny)

dankney (631226) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298103)

Have you checked eBay?

I'VE DISCOVERED BUGGERING (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298257)

and I like it!

Anybody interested?

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8297999)

fp... or worse.. =\

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298002)

First xml post

Hard To Believe (4, Interesting)

monstroyer (748389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298011)

At the end of the day, the computer understands binary and that's it. In fact, languages are only a means for the human to talk to the computer. After a compile all the way down to the processor, the computer still only cares about two words: ZERO and ONE.

Just because a language goes extinct doesn't mean we lost an opportunity to develop better heuristics. It just means some programmers will lose touch with programing.

Currently, programing languages are based around english because the first programmers were english. If programing goes chinese, the only thing that will change is uni-lingual anglophones not understanding what is going on.

Of course this may change with biotechnology, but our current technology is still electric and i don't think it matters here.

Re:Hard To Believe (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298113)

because the first programmers were english

uhh... wrong....

The first programmer was german (Zuse) and he certainly didn't use a language (except for cursing when another tube broke).

Re:Hard To Believe (1)

JeffTL (667728) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298143)

Actually, the computer cn't understand zero and one as such; the actual concept is closer to "yes" and "no"

Re:Hard To Believe (1, Funny)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298170)

Last I checked, there are no verbs or nouns in C.

If you have a computer that can be programmed in English, please share. I can finally quit my day job and do something useful other than constantly have to translate between human thought and machine symbology.

Re:Hard To Believe (5, Interesting)

Manax (41161) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298178)

You are entirely missing the point.

The idea is that other languages embody higher-order logics that we haven't yet discovered in western cultures. Consequently, when a language is lost, we've lost another opportunity to learn those logics and apply them to programming.

Now, personally, I find the idea silly. The paper that is linked from the article is pretty deep, and talking about Sanskrit particularly, which has a long history, and a lot of deep algorithmic aspects. Most of the languages that are disappearing are tiny languages, which may be interesting in their own right, but probably wouldn't revolutionize programming...

Also personally, it's too bad that these languages are disappearing, if in fact they are. However, I'm all in favor of languages becoming unused. Culling the herd and all that... but each language is a piece of our culture, and I'd personally like them to be archived, so that in a hundred years, we can use our holodecks to recreate a civilization that has been gone for a thousand years, complete with clothing, hair styles, technology and language. :) But that's just me.

Re:Hard To Believe (4, Insightful)

AoT (107216) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298182)

The differences could come in syntax. Imagine if there were a language out there which had a natural syntax structure that was ideal for AI or patern recognition programs.

I think linguistic and Computer science could, and some would argue should, be much more intertwined.

Re:Hard To Believe (1)

taybin (622573) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298183)

It just means some programmers will lose touch with programing.

Which would be pretty terrible, in my opinion.

Re:Hard To Believe (4, Insightful)

mveloso (325617) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298191)

They're not based on english, really:

for (etude=1; etude GRANDE_FRAB; etude++)
{
va_sub(etude, FRIES);
}

is valid. Keywords are just keywords, and if you really wanted to you could use macros to replace them with arbitrary words in your language of choice.

It's more accurate to say that programming languages are linear (or tend to be), because that's how computers work today. What a non-linear language would be is unclear - for the same reasons an OODL is unclear until you find problems where it's ideal.

Re:Hard To Believe (5, Insightful)

Acidic_Diarrhea (641390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298197)

I think you missed the entire point. And it's not even as though you had to read the article. The write-up did a nice job of summarizing the reason why people should care about the loss of a human language. Human language structure can give insight into the structure of created languages that may work better for certain tasks.

And to correct you, the computer does not "care" about anything. Zeroes and ones are what a processor interprets in order to execute an instruction but there's no reason you could not move to a 0,1 and 2 numbering system. Maybe the introduction to computer science class that you're taking hasn't covered this idea yet.

Language design benefits from having many different languages to examine. That's what this article is about. Take your binary elsewhere.

Re:Hard To Believe (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298222)

You forget that it is still humans that write the programs. Languages influence how people think, hence the amount of programming languages available: Every class of problem demands a certain approach if we're to solve it efficiently.

If everybody conversed to each other as well as wrote programs in novospeak, we'd all start to dress, look, and think the same. This means diminishing ability to deal with new and unforeseen problems.

Of course, if you're sure we'll never see new and unforeseen problems again, we won't need the ability to adapt and deal with them and we have nothing to worry about.

The technology we create is indeed silicon based and runs on electricity, but our inherent technology is still carbon based and runs (ultimately) on sunlight. Then again, so do our powerplants.

Re:Hard To Believe (0)

whmac33 (524094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298259)

Computers care for more than ONES and ZEROES in the same regard that I care for more than A-Z Those ones and zeroes only mean something when they are put together into words that mean something, just like the alphabet.

And not all computer languages are the same at the ONES and ZEROES level. There are improvements to make there as well.

Re:Hard To Believe (2, Insightful)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298261)

Right now, as monstroyer said, programming languages are (at least) predominatly english. If you search google for answers to some programming question you may have, you'll see everything from German to French to Russian all using English commands, etc. It makes me wonder why localized version of languages weren't made. Since variable names only care about consistancy, I can call a variable whatever, but the commands themselves are still English or English based. So, if we all fall into an English standard, would we move away from English if, as was suggested, these Chineese became the primary progammers?

Yet, some commands are abbreviated and criptic to deflate. They aren't real English, that is. But no one complains.

It seems like we have two different "concepts." A localized semantic approach or a cryptic set of letters that we still understand because we know what the command does.

If English, etc. goes away, English commands would still be viable, since we know what the command does (e.g. I may know what Exp stands for, but I know what it does). Or, we can keep updating languages to be local to whatever vernacular.

To me, neither seems more or less desierable or usable as long as week keep traditional commands.

Either way, I don't think we will lose touch with programming; we only lose touch with certain programming languages, and that is only a mild possibility, since I'm sure there are quite a few uni-lingual non-anglophones that write in very English languages, like VB, and make it along quite well.

Soon to come, (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298012)

the extinction of French Canadians? Sorry Kaybeckers, but we all knew this was coming. Don't worry, you'll leave a legacy of rudeness and poutine to last till the end of the world.

Re:Soon to come, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298035)

Good. The less we have to bend over backwards to accomodate a small minority of Canadians, the better. We spend billions on appeasing those crybabies with cash handouts and federal jobs. They're a glorified welfare province.

You're looking at it the wrong way (4, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298013)

The way I see it, programming languages of the future aren't going to evolve from spoken language. Instead, the spoken languages of the future will evolve from programming languages.

In 200 years, There'll be 637 different words for "bug" in the our universal spoken language, ESPERA~1. To express confusion, a speaker will slap his hands over his face, stand stock still, shout "BLUE!", and wait for the other person to walk away.

Re:You're looking at it the wrong way (2, Funny)

prockcore (543967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298076)

Instead, the spoken languages of the future will evolve from programming languages.

I->do(this, already);
I=ahead(the_curve);

Re:You're looking at it the wrong way (1)

BigBadBri (595126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298108)

and I suppose the three-finger salute applied to nose, eye, ear will be used to reboot your interlocutor in cases of blue funk confusion?

English is already screwed - the spread of textish and the dumbing down of already dumb media will lead, in 200 years, to a society where intellectual pursuits will be viewed as harshly as in the days of Pol Pot - the job of the consumer will be to consume, and thought itself will be a crime.

Re:You're looking at it the wrong way (4, Funny)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298115)

shout "BLUE!"

I think you mean scream BLUE, as in the "Blue scream of Death".

English is the world language (maybe) (2, Interesting)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298014)

When I went to Europe, everybody under 70 spoke english -- except for a couple of wacky youngers.
Now, we aren't anywhere close to having a world language, but I think that within 100 years English will be the primary language of everybody. (I also think the concept of the Nation-State will be abolished by then -- it's only about 500 years old).

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (3, Funny)

Nexus Seven (112882) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298068)

You didn't happen to be visiting England did you?

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (5, Insightful)

Glenda Slagg (464228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298069)

and coming from Europe, when I went to East LA nobody was speaking English...

It will become even more of a Lingua Franca, sure but Primary for everybody, I don't think so. Peoples' pride in their own cultures would not allow it...

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (0)

orangeinvasion (741166) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298121)

It will become even more of a Lingua Franca, sure but Primary for everybody, I don't think so. Peoples' pride in their own cultures would not allow it...
If only people's pride in their cultures were the overriding factor in shaping cultural history. I'm pretty sure capitalism & globalization will have no problem with it.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (2, Insightful)

CyberSp00k (137333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298155)

And, of course, Lingua Franca came from the time when French was the world language ... the more things change ...

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (4, Insightful)

Tremblay99 (534187) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298077)

There are over 1 billion native speakers of either Cantonese or Mandarin. English might be spoken by a billion people, but it's unlikely that it's a first language of that many people. Just a thought.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298079)

think that within 100 years English will be the primary language of everybody

except for a handful of holdout losers in Kee-Beck.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (1)

G. W. Bush Junior (606245) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298146)

I think that within 100 years English will be the primary language of everybody.
Why?
It's hardly the largest language in the world theres not really any evidence that America and Europe will be able to hold on to the advantage that other cultures have had before them...

I hope you're right about nation states, but I don't think that invading other countries and forcing them to adhere to your standards is viable for the whole world.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (2, Interesting)

PacoTaco (577292) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298180)

I think we'll speak what the people with the guns and the money speak. Maybe we'll end up with English and Chinese, like Firefly.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (3, Insightful)

Joey7F (307495) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298248)

but I think that within 100 years English will be the primary language of everybody.


I agree, but it won't be the English that we speak

--Joey

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298270)

Now, we aren't anywhere close to having a world language, but I think that within 100 years English will be the primary language of everybody.

And which 'english' with that be?

The US Southern Drawl

The US Northern US 'Ya sure ya betcha'

The Queen's

The commoners

The Aussie

The Canadian, eh!

Those of us who like to say 'virii' and are relentlessly persecuted by fascist AC's

Valley Girl

etc.

I think the whole thing is a myth, languages may be going away, but as language is dynamic, new dialects or variations appear and will continue to diverge. For the most part we have some idea what the other is saying, but as new meanings or words come out of a small population and someone doesn't understand it, you still have the very mechanics which created all the languages in the first place.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298278)

The Queens? Sorry, I don't think that lisping makes for clear speech.

Re:English is the world language (maybe) (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298279)

A little over two millenia ago Emperor Chin united China as a single nation-state.

Five hundred years earlier King Cyrus II created the nation of Persia (right before he created the Persian Empire around it).

A little over five hundred years before that, the north and south kingoms of Egypt united to become a single nation with a single Pharoh.

Culture, identity, language and government have been tied to nations for thousends of years, it will take more than a century to get rid of nationalism.

And conversely, as long as there are nations, there will allways be language differences.

yes, (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298021)

of course...

besides Galactic Basic (0)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298026)

what else should we ever need to learn to speak? :)

Not the best plan for globalization (0)

orangeinvasion (741166) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298039)

Extinction of half the world languages won't improve global communication for a long time yet. The first languages to go will be ones that people are now bilingual in. Cultures aren't just going to drop one language and move to another; obviously there has to be a transitional period.

What a buncha baloney! (3, Interesting)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298040)

Seriously, this is similar to faking the landing on the moon. Matching natural language to programming will give us obtuse languages that are difficult to understand and have a HUGE learning curve.

Programming is based on a 'higher understanding' of how to design something, and the only real 'major' difference between the languages should be the syntax. But having a language based on a natural language and a 'normal' computer language would be the difference of VB and lisp. You just can't design an app the same way for both languages.

Languages disappearing?? (5, Funny)

bckrispi (725257) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298042)

Hmm, that's doubleplus ungood...

Does it matter? (3, Insightful)

LinuxInDallas (73952) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298049)

If we have record of that language, then I don't see how much would have been lost. If there were so few people speaking it then what are the chances it would have had a measureable influence on the design of computer languages anyway? Especially considering that the people doing the designing typically come from a small set of backgrounds (euro, asian, american...)

Re:Does it matter? (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298208)

the people doing the designing typically come from a small set of backgrounds (euro, asian, american...)

Pretty small set there, indeed. It only covers four of the most populous continents!

Native Antarcticans have just as much to contribute to language design as anyone else! If only we would listen.

Re:Does it matter? (3, Insightful)

CyberSp00k (137333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298224)

If we have record of that language, then I don't see how much would have been lost.

The ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphics was lost from ~400 C.E. until Napoleon lead the looters into Egypt ~1800 and one of his troops tripped over the Rosetta Stone. [I was watching the History Channel this morning.] Plenty of records of the language were lying about, but no record players.

Oh good farking gawd... (-1)

BurKaZoiD (611246) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298053)

...why don't you dumb motherfuckers worry about something more important, like world peace/hunger??? If I'm starving, I'll speak/program any goddamn language you want, as long as you give me a damn sandwich.

Goddamn, slashdot has just gone to hell in a handbasket...I don't even know why I visit here any more.

Evolution (0)

Lipongo (704267) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298054)

Will cause us all to be able to think in 1s and 0s. This will leave no need for programming languages as we will be able to speak the computer's native language.

Re:Evolution (3, Funny)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298185)

with a one-bit bus (our mouth) that's going to be pretty slow.

I suppose we could add ten fingers, two eyes, and three toes to the mouth, and get a 16 bit bus, but that's going to be pretty hard to process. Not to mention it will be half duplex at best, since you'd need your eyes to see the other person communicating. Not to mention that a bit shift could very easily have you firmly planting your foot in your mouth.

Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all week.

Oh but then... (1)

alanoneil (749691) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298196)

we'll get fragmentation between instruction sets... babelfish will translate between proper Nihon86 and broken PowerPCgrish.

Humbug (4, Insightful)

__past__ (542467) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298058)

The one thing that designers of programming languages have to accept is that programming languages do not have much to do with natural languages. No surprise - natural languages are meant to communicate with humans, computer languages are primarily (although this might be considered a bug) designed to give unanimous orders to deterministic systems. Big difference. There is no poetry in COBOL, and there is no way do completely specify an algorithm for a von-Neumann-machine in portugese.

Human languages dying may be a pity (or not), but it does not have anything to do with computer programming.

Re:Humbug (1)

goon america (536413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298216)

There is no poetry in COBOL

But there's plenty of perl poetry [google.com] !

(mod -1, Obvious)

The languages that are lost (3, Insightful)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298064)

are the ones that do not contain the technical leanguage to survive contact with whatever absorbs them. Look at how English is spreading with words to describe new technology into languages that don't have it.

The time will come when we only have one language left, but not soon.

Panini? (5, Funny)

John Girouard (716057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298071)

...strong link between Panini's Grammar and computer science

I knew sandwiches were related to programming!

Um shutup (5, Funny)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298072)

How exactly is C or Pascal based off a spoken language?

while (alive)

while (lust && !state(HUNGER)) {
seek_women(HIGH_PRIORITY);
if (found) {
sex_up(BYPAIRS)
sleep();
} else {
sex_up(MANUALLY);
watch(CARTOONS);
}
}

if (state(HUNGER))
{
seek_food();
if (found) {
chow_down_like_no_tommorow();
} else {
slaughter(NEIGHBOUR);
chow_down_like_is_tommorow();
}
}

}

Oh I get it ....

Re:Um shutup (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298120)


Fuck off with your gay snippets of code. It doesn't make you look "leet", it makes you look desperate, jackass.

Re:Um shutup (4, Funny)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298187)

Deparate for what? I do real coding as well. It is people like the famous anonymous coward that really drain the usability of slashdot down. Keep it up though. You might say something funny eventually.

Tom

Re:Um shutup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298258)

Awww, someone didn't take their ritlin today. There there, it will be okay. Take your medicine while these nice men help you into your special jacket.

Well in NYC there is one language,,,, (1, Funny)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298074)

sign language and I can guarantee that NY'ers will never part with it. Now of course programming with just the middle finger isn't as productive, but it works none the less ..|..

3,400 languages left (2, Insightful)

Richard Allen (213475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298078)

This may be great news if one is looking at a common standard for communication

So, we're considering the 3,400 languages that will be left a common standard for communication?

I'm not trying to be a meany; but come on, that's a pretty odd statement to make.

plausible but ease of use? (4, Insightful)

gooru (592512) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298080)

"with every language lost, there is a possibility that we may have missed an opportunity at improving the underlying heuristics."

That sounds plausible to me. However, isn't part of a programming language the ease with which we can use it? If no one could natively use a language or grasp it easily, then comprehending these wonderful heuristics would be extremely difficult. High level programming languages exist for a reason. That's why few people program in assembly--it's difficult to learn. No one grew up speaking assembly, but many people grew up speaking Romance and Teutonic languages. If programming languages were suddenly structured like, for example, Arabic or Chinese, I would likely find it extremely difficult to learn and use them. (Note that I can speak Chinese but can hardly imagine trying to program in it.)

Spirituel Machines (1)

bstadil (7110) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298081)

If you think anyone will "Program" at the end of the century IE 96 Years from now you will be disappointed. Yes most of you reading this will be alive by then. Get hold of Spitual Machines [penguinputnam.com] by Ray Kurzweil to give you an inclink why.

FYI Your PC will be 9 Billion times faster than today.

Re:Spirituel Machines (1)

Nexus Seven (112882) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298198)

IE 96? That's 90 versions away. I wonder whether it will have less security holes by then?

Re:Spirituel Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298271)

Your two attempts to spell "Spiritual" both failed. It is not "IE" it is "i.e." It is "inkling" not "inclink."

I have a feeling you will not benefit much from the domination of the English language.

New Languages (5, Funny)

knarfling (735361) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298088)

On the plus side, there are new languages showing up all the time. Klingon, Vulcan, Romulan, Cardassian .... Imagine the programming possibilities!!!

Re:New Languages (3, Funny)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298152)

The true warrior does not comment his code :)

-WS

In related news: (4, Interesting)

Krapangor (533950) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298090)

NewScientist renames NewCrackpot

Honestly, I've never seen such stuff in a well reputated journal. Programming languages are something that must be understood by computers - besides humans.
If you want a "natural" language for computers then it would have to be necessarily of Chomsky-0 type. Thus Turing-complete. And therefore not decidable which implies that a computer cannot parse it.
The author fails to realize that human languages are completely different from programming languages. Furthermore his main point is frankly rubbish: it's well known that the grammar for all human languages follows the same basic rules (Chomsky's hypothesis) thus nothing would be lost when old languages die out. Additionally it has been proven that new languages are created all the time.

you can't be afraid of progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298098)

and with every language lost, there is a possibility that we may have missed an opportunity at improving the underlying heuristics

this is a packrat argument .. the heuristic will improve itself in an evolutionary manner over time .. how many of us hold on to those old RLL hard drives in case they "might come in handy someday?" .. it just doesn't wash in the long run. properly documented, these language won't be Lost - they will simply fall by the wayside and be replaced with more globally recognized means of communication. while i certainly can't argue that diversity is beautiful, i wouldn't mind a single language that everyone is likely to be fluent in. the benefits gained when things are no longer so likely to be 'lost in translation' probably outweigh the blind dedication towards keeping old languages alive.

i'm not saying english should neessarily be the One language .. i find it kind of gutteral, tho its very expressive .. lets go with japanese .. they have cooler cartoons :D

Well... (1)

Savatte (111615) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298102)

as long as Incubus [imdb.com] still exists, we can feel secure in knowing that Esperanto will always be with us. Shatner Rules!

On a different note, Incubus and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner are two films that are the only ones ever made in their respective languages (Esperanto and Inuit). Does anyone know any more?

Value of loss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298111)

and with every language lost, there is a possibility that we may have missed an opportunity at improving the underlying heuristics

Every person who starves to death could have been the next Einstein or Ghandi, but none of you technophiles care about that. Instead, whine about your precious programming languages. Sickening.

Article doesn't mention the net... (4, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298125)

Which is ridiculous.

Here's the great truth - the Net has done more in 10 years to advance English as the dominant language than 500 years of foreign occupations did by the British. And, as the article mentions, English and Spanish are incorporating idiomatic elements of other languages as slang and new vocabulary.

The 2nd truth, languages like C and perl and visual basic have constructs based in English (for...foreach...if/then, print, exit, need I go on..) and understanding these key words also helps push English as the dominant language.

One can debate the merits of this, but I disagree with the slashdot premise that it cuts off avenues of finding better heuristics, because any attempt at a dominant language will and must evolve, even if it were the sole language of the entire planet.

Umm, geeks can spell? (1)

thecountryofmike (744040) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298138)

Newspeak is upon us...just the natural progression of language. The only way to stop a language from dying is to put some political will behind its preservation - like Icelandic, a language that hasn't changed for several hundred years.

BAH! (2, Funny)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298141)

Computer science will never find the perfect language. It doesn't exist. Any time you try to render an idea in a language, any language, you have to simplify it.

We have known that language is an imperfect form of communication. The greeks knew it (hence the god Rumor.) The Taoists knew it. In 6000 yeras of recorded history we have not found a perfect language. If it doesn't work for huminty, why would computers be any different, where context is implied in almost every respect?

Some how... (4, Funny)

sofakingl (690140) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298151)

I get the feeling that Klingon will end up being better preserved than at least half the languages that could potentially disappear.

I Don't Care (4, Funny)

rixstep (611236) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298153)

As long as PASCAL, COBOL, and C++ are extinct too, I don't care.

Japanese (0, Insightful)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298156)

I just hope to god the future of programming languages does not revolve around Japanese. Seriously, I'm teaching myself Japanese now, and you have no idea how frustrating it is to learn that one word can have MANY different meanings, all based on context, and there are no hard rules as to how its used. Oh.....and there are just as many different spellings of the word too. Yeah, I'd love to have a programming language be like that.

Re:Japanese (1)

The Wing Lover (106357) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298277)

...one word can have MANY different meanings...

I think that you may be confusing the fact that one reading can have many different words. Surely you can't be thinking "hana" (nose) and "hana" (flower) are the same word just because they both happen to be pronounced the same way...

10010111 10111000 11111100 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298158)

10011100 10100011 10001000 00010101 10101111 10100011 10001000 10011100 10011100 10001110
10100000 01000111 01010001 01010101

But what about? (1)

Bendebecker (633126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298159)

The new languages like l33+ and aol-speec?

Re:But what about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298207)

Not to mention jive and ebonics.

Where did you get that idea? (5, Insightful)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298160)

This article is just confusion. Somehow the loss of obscure human languages effects programming? In what way? Neither article links makes any mention of such a thing.

In fact, the very fact that a universal human semantic language seems to exist implies that the loss of specific languages doesn't make any difference.

Also, human languages and programming languages are very different. Programming languages that actually work are designed with BNF syntax, a very structured formal style that can't begin to describe human language; human language is organic and has no destinct syntax (its statistical only).

Thus, the thesis of the article 1) isnt supported in the links and 2) doesnt make sense.

Queens English (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298161)

i pr3dic7 7h@ in 4 100 j34rz 0r s0, 90 p3rc3n7 0f 7h3 w0r1d p0pu1@i0n wi11 5p34k 7h3 n0b13 4nd b34u7iphu1 14n9u493 of 1337 5p3ak

misleading (4, Insightful)

goon america (536413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298164)

half of all human languages will have disappeared by the end of the century

This is sort of misleading. A better way to say it might be that half of all languages we know exist in the current day may be extinct in 100 years. All the languages that we know today probably constitute a tiny fraction of all human languages, since languages continuously are created, evolve, merge, die out, etc.

languages may be used less as well (1)

jrexilius (520067) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298172)

By that time I suspect we will be farther along generational paths for expressing logic, concepts, and data for machines to process. I know that language has an effect on thought patterns and influences logic and learning but I suspect that will be mitigated by better input mechanisms.

There are way too many budding technologies and research paths right now to think that we will still be at such a low level of abstraction with computer instructions in 100 years. Didnt they just get a rat to move a mouse cursor with direct nervous system connections and arent there a bunch of biological processing projects going on? how bout quantom or analog computing?

Dunno, seeme like less of a tragic loss for computing and perhaps more of a loss for human space concerns.

Language and Computer Science (4, Interesting)

Yoda2 (522522) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298194)

Research on human language and computer science are heavily intertwined. Love or hate Chomsky, his work in linguistics paved the way for modern programming languages. Anyone who has taken a theory of computation class will be familiar with this. The flip side is that the the leaps made in defining and constructing compilers for programming languages have provided linguistics with a whole new rigor and set of tools previously unavailable.

I can easily see how subtilties in the "rules" underlying various spoken langauges can provide insights that could help to improve programming languages. Problem is that I don't thing very many people are expert enough in the linguistics of rare and dying languages AND computer science to find and make use of these possible connections.

Re:Language and Computer Science (2, Troll)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298239)

Um, I look at C and assembler are more about moving data into and out of registers than anything else. The "rules" have more to do with 4th century algebra then 20th century linguistics. Granted, 19th century Boolean logic does contribute a bit.

Real meaning is language independent (4, Informative)

NewIntellectual (444520) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298200)

The idea that obscure languages "becoming extinct" will adversely affect computer science is wrong on multiple levels.

First, any language properly so-called has referents in reality. Those referents are language independent; that is a fundamental aspect of epistemology. If that were not so, it would be impossible to translate between human languages. Obviously, it is very possible.

Second, the characteristics of human language which affect computer languages are - what? A computer "language" is a formal syntax to tell an electronic machine exactly what to do, in a particular order. That's it. A lot of Slashdot readers know multiple computer languages (and no doubt, human languages). Aside from speed considerations, any complete computer language can do anything any other language can do, as long as the ability to access given hardware is the same.

Third, what difference does it make if a language is "extinct" or not? Latin is a "dead" language but it forms the root of many European languages. If anything, computer "languages" can, and do, evolve far more rapidly than any human language, to fit evolving needs and better comprehension of good programming practices. Whether an addition operation is called "Addition", "Summa", "Plus", or "+" is irrelevant really, other than conciseness of syntax (leading to "+" as ideal here.)

Snow (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8298202)

In Alaska, the Eskimos have 15 different words for snow, allowing for them to describe snow to new dimensions beyond that of some other languages. It's easier to see solutions for something you have a word for, then for something you have no frame of reference for. We "think" differently when we speak other languages simply because of the difference in the language. Think on that...

Re:Snow (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298246)

>Eskimos have 15 different words for snow

I know snowboarders in California that have as many different words for snow, and I'll bet they are different from the words skiiers use, which are different from the words ski-doo'ers use.

I don't see what makes Eskimo so special.

One language that will never die: (-1, Redundant)

rasafras (637995) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298221)

English? Nope. French? Nuh-uh. Spanish? Not that, either. Russian, Chinese, German? Try again.

The language I am of course referring to is none other than Klingon.

Tragic, but not for CS (4, Interesting)

Tremblay99 (534187) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298226)

It's tragic that we're losing one of our deepest links to the past.

Some things to ponder ...

Linguistic family trees generally mirror genetic family trees. The links between the two assist both linguists and geneticists in determing where we come from and how we got there.

Every time we lose a language, we lose something unique or even magical. Yiddish has more words for simpleton than the Inuit use for "snow".

The native languages spoken by the Lapps, Basques and Welsh are relics from before Pro-Indo European language and culture spread from India to Europe, displacing most native languages and cultures.

Tiny New Guinea contains 1/5 of all the languages spoken on Earth.

If we lose these languages, we lose a piece of ourselves. Just to keep things in perspective.

All this is... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298229)

All this is is a group of researchers trying to look important and get more research money.

Obligatory Simpson's (4, Funny)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298237)

Me extinct English? That's unpossible.

aut0tr0ll is teh sp0kE!? (-1)

Jack Froidalbungle (730156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298247)

Hello master.

sid=97077
formkey=KwngXlZsIJ

This is a joint venture that will be mutually advantageous to both parties involved.

languages do not disappear (3, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298251)

they evolve or merge with more influential ones.

that's basic linguistics for you.

I remember in one of my linguistics courses, I read about one scholar who, after describing how the Norman invasion of England added over 10,000 new words to the English language, stated English should be classified as a dialect of French.

Usually, words in one language which describe something that does not have a concept in the assimilating language stay unchanged. "Sushi" is one example.

A funny example of a word evolving between languages is "budget":
Middle English bouget, wallet, from Old French bougette, diminutive of bouge, leather bag, from Latin bulga, of Celtic origin.
(http://www.bartleby.com/61/9/B0530900.ht ml)

Bable (1)

Grip3n (470031) | more than 10 years ago | (#8298255)

Tower of Babel, here we come!

"The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, [1] they found a plain in Shinar [2] and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel [3] -because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. "

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?