Linguistics and Computer Languages

Of course, I would never think that I was the only one to have the idea of studying computer languages from a linguistics point of view. Well, I found an interesting character, by the name of Chris Barker that gave an interesting keynote at POPL in 2004. He’s mentioned in a recent LtU discussion about the “Influence of cognitive models on programming language design”. Unlike most linguists, that get branched off into anthropology and soft models of cognition, Barker really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to formal models. He even has an (interactive!) tutorial on lambda calculus.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to scare up any recording of his keynote, but the abstract is available.

Linguists seek to understand the semantics of expressions in human languages. Taking a computational point of view, there are many natural language expressions—operators in the wild, so to speak— that control evaluation in ways that are familiar from programming languages: just think of the natural-language counterparts of if, unless, while, etc. But in general, how well-behaved are control operators found in the wild? Can we always understand them in terms of familiar programming constructs, or do they go significantly beyond the expressive power of programming languages?

I’d love to take a whole class devoted to this kind of stuff!