How manyeth?

I was very curious whether the way you think and act is directly related to the language you speak. I did some Bing search and stumbled on few blogs which mentioned about the lack of left or right in a language called Kuuk Thaayorre. They have to refer everything in terms of cardinal/ordinal directions. There were interesting examples in  Scientific American. I was impressed by the fact that in the language Kuuk Thaayorre it is impossible for someone to refer something without knowing the direction. This forces them to be oriented always and that is because of the language they speak. It even affects the way people think about time and space, the English say the future is ahead and Chinese say the future is down there or the English say it is a long day and the Chinese say it was a big day. So a person’s thinking is influenced by the language s/he speaks.

Will these be applicable to programming languages? Is a programmer’s thinking influenced by the first language s/he learns? It seems it could be true. I observe that Java as a language did not change much (faster) but polyglot programmers have contributed to bring in efficiency and elegance which they learnt while using other languages. An example which I also stated in my older post (Don’t make me think) is LambdaJ, which helps in writing expressive code in Java when working with collections while not worrying about writing obvious for-loops. Frameworks like Roo help us to avoid mundane Java boilerplating and concentrate only on functionality. There should be many more out there which has helped Java developers but influenced by the features of other languages and frameworks.

A programming language has an option to keep growing through upgrades unlike the spoken languages. I am not sure why a spoken language need to be restricted from acquiring parts from other languages. I am the one who missed asking the question “How manyeth candy are you having?” when I started learning English. It took me a while to understand how to ask similar questions when I had to translate from Tamil to English.

Which developer thinks better? Java or Ruby or C#…..?

EDIT: Some bloggers pointed me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir-Whorf_hypothesis and http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/1067#comment-11228

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2 Comments

  1. “Which developer thinks better? XXX or YYY or ZZZ…?”

    I’d really recommend reading Paul Graham’s Hackers and Painters. See http://www.paulgraham.com/hackpaint.html
    In the book Paul Graham talks about the varying power of langauges, explaining how thinking in a less powerful language can constrain your mind.

    In a linguistic view, check out Whorfianism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whorfianism), the idea that language does affect your world view.

    Reply

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