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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Programming languages, natural languages, and mathematics

Some social aspects of pro gramming are illuminated through analogies with similar aspects of mathematics and natural languages. The split between pure and applied mathematics is found similarly in programming. The development of natural languages toward flexionless, word-order based language types speaks for programming language design based on general, abstract constructs. By analogy with incidents of the history of artificial, auxiliary languages it is suggested that Fortran and Cobol will remain dominant for a long time to come. The most promising avenues for further work of wide influence are seen to be high quality program literature (i.e. programs) of general utility and studies of questions related to program style.

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