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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Maybe this is me being ethnocentric (with a mix of naivete), but why can't we standardize on one language? Is spoken language like programming languages in that regard, where some tasks are better done in C++, some in Perl, and some in Assembly?

    I won't be so naive to suggest that English be the standard language - after all, Spanish is more widely spoken than English.

    I can sympathize with the loss of a language, but I suggest that Darwin's Rule of "Survival of the Fittest" applies. The outgoing langua

    • Zeroth off, thanks for playing devil's advocate. It lets me talk more, which I always enjoy.

      First off, "survival of the fittest" is the fishiest of theories. Without getting into its "unfalsifiability" problems, it's just plain tautological: it defines fittest as just a property of whatever survives, which ends up saying nothing more than that the survivors survived. But moving on:

      Second off, I see nothing wrong with a world where every person can speak English. But I see everything wrong with a world where every person can speak only English. We can all fit easily a half-dozen languages in our heads, to the betterment of all. Why waste the capacity? Speak English, but also speak Spanish, ASL, Cantonese, Cherokee, and Haitian, or whatever other languages are in your culture, family, region, religion, or whimsy.

      Third off, people do have "mere sentimental" attachments to languages. But what does that mean? They care about it without having an exterior reason to do so? By that measure, most human relationships are "mere[ly] sentimental".

      And fourth off, what gets lost when you lose a language, is understanding of the things composed in that language -- everything from puns to poems. You can translate, but I assure you that translation is never the same, not by a long shot, even for closely related languages. You can borrow words, but languages aren't just words, in the same way that computer programs aren't just variables.

      To put it all in computer language terms: you can't turn ASM into Prolog, nor vice versa; and we shouldn't have to live in a world that lacks either. So yes, like you asked, human languages are surprisingly like computer languages in that some things are better in one that in another; and in that knowing several of them will "stritch your brines" as Damian once flatteringly said about Class::Classless [].

      • Just to provoke more thought: I (humbly) disagree with your assessment of "Survival of the Fittest." In your perception, SotF is an explanation of a result that has already taken effect. I see it more of a basic law of nature, which predicts trends as well, although I agree that we usually can't comprehend "fittest" until it has already survived. Fittest is not what merely survives (though that is true), but it also describes something that will survive the test of time.

        I'm short on brainpower right no

        • `Fittest', or more correctly, `best fitted' is precisely just those things which have survived. Evolutionary theory also doesn't really apply here as a language is subject to so many directed processes. Groups of people try to keep their language alive, and languages don't change through random processes in the same way. While it's interesting to note the parallels between the processes through which languages change over time, and those which affect the biological sphere, it is a little broken.