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14. UML > Language Design

Language Design

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

Grady: The question you raise is an old one, albeit cast in a new form: linguists and cognitive scientists have pondered that very question for decades, with much of the controversy swirling around what is called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Edward Tufte similarly points out that the right representation can collapse complexity, making it possible to meaningfully reason about complex information in an abstract way.

To explain further, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (from the linquists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf) posits a connection between language and thought: the syntactic and semantic elements of a spoken language impacts how a person can perceive the world and reason about it (and vice versa). Contemporary linquists such as George Lakoff (author of Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things [University of Chicago Press]) agree. Tufte’s work (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information [Graphics Press]) focuses on the visualization of complex data, and through numerous examples makes the point that effective graphics can make the difference between understandability and obscurity.


  

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