[Haskell-cafe] off-topic question: how well do you think linguistic relativity applies to PLs and programming?

Lucas Paul reilithion at gmail.com
Wed Jan 22 21:37:26 UTC 2014

This is my take, as a CS undergraduate.

I'm not sure if we can say that a programmer's language of choice
determines the way they think about programming (the strong version of
linguistic relativity for programming, as I see it). But I think it's
fairly obvious that the language we choose to use to solve a problem
affects how we think about the solution. That's basically the entire
raison d'être for domain-specific languages (DSLs)!

DSLs are popular (and becoming more so) precisely because the right
choice of DSL can make expressing the solution to a particular kind of
problem almost trivial. A poor choice can almost doom an endeavor.
Imagine trying to query a database in assembly language. No SQL. It
would at the very least require some mental gymnastics that a SELECT
statement simply obviates.

Similarly, functional programmers tend to think about maps and folds,
while imperative programmers tend to think about loops and iterators.
While they accomplish much the same thing, it's amazing to read code
and see what different directions they often lead.

(Ömer, sorry for the double-response. I wish GMail defaulted to
replying to the list. >_<)

- Lucas

On Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 11:14 AM, Ömer Sinan Ağacan
<omeragacan at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I recently got myself thinking about programming languages and their
> effects on programmers. I already knew that concept of "linguistic
> relativity" (  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity  )
> and I was thinking that this may be relevant with programming too,
> although I don't have any concrete evidence. I was wondering if anyone
> else also find that idea of programming language's effect of the
> programmer interesting. Do we have any research on that kinds of
> things?
> Thanks,
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> Haskell-Cafe mailing list
> Haskell-Cafe at haskell.org
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