Grammar Complexity of Conlang and Complang

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
Xah Talk Show 2021-12-15 Grammar Complexity of Constructed Human Languages and Computer Languages

today's twitter extempore!

  1. xah's edu corner, on constructed languages and comp languages, and their grammar.
  2. in english, french, chinese, arabic, all human languages have very complex grammar. It's difficult to learn.
  3. many tried to remedy this. In almost all constructed lang, esperanto, lojban, etc, have simple grammar.
  4. but strange, in computer lang, almost all have ad hoc, irregular grammar. C and all C derived syntax, does not try to make it simple.
  5. The concept, of a simple grammar, doesn't exist in average programers's minds.
  6. golang's syntax, derived from C, created its own ad hoc syntax.
  7. There are some languages that have simple grammar. lisp, Wolfram Language, APL, XML, tcl.
  8. but the quality of simple syntax, does not seem to be appreciated. The trend is more complex syntax.
  9. xml, the concept is simple. gets more and more complex by spec, till html5 killed it. html5 actively encourages irregular grammar
  10. lisp, when invented, was the first language to espouse simple grammar. But today's lispers don't understand none of it.
  11. racket, clojure, both created incomprehensible syntax, especially clojure. [see Clojure Sigils (Magic Characters)]
  12. haskell, great functional programing language, based its syntax on one man's whim — ISWIM.
  13. syntax become complex, seems to spur from evolution, basically: habit and familiarity. Just like natural human language, eg english etc.
  14. no foundational thought. Probably partly cuz, lang with unfamiliar syntax have little chance of survival. people no want learn.
  15. and perhaps for the same reason, all reform of english, failed, and no constructed language, despite simplicity, are really used.
  16. there were tens of english reforms, some had some limelight at their time, but all are eventually buried in history.
  17. so, habit and familiarity are fundamental in human activities.
  18. though, not to say that computer language with simple grammar will disappear.
  19. lisp, Wolfram Language, XML, APL, not gonna go away anytime soon. Especially their concept.
  20. and my hope is that, newer langs will be based on syntax algebra.

Systematic Grammar