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9. ML > The Theory of Meaning

The Theory of Meaning

What is the link between the design of a language and the design of software written with that language?

Robin: This is an enormous question. Long ago, I think in the 60s and 70s, there was hope for a single UNiversal Computer Oriented Language (UNCOL), which never came into existence. The idea was that you would use UNCOL for everything. If it existed, there couldn’t be a meaningful link between the design of a language and of programs!

Now (and before then) we have seen a progression of languages, almost all favouring certain applications. Prolog favoured applications where actions can be conveniently described by logical formulae, so the design of a Prolog program would be structured on logical terms. ML and Haskell have rich type structure, so the design of ML and Haskell programs will often be closely linked to type structure. And so on. Every task can be written in many different languages, and it may be that the structure in the programmer’s mind is the same, but that each language will do better in rendering explicit some parts of the structure, leaving other parts implicit; the parts that can be made expl....


  

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