Pure Danger Tech


Does your programming language affect how you think?

08 Nov 2006

I’d recommend this pretty good podcast of a talk by Ruby creator Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto. It talks about the origins and design principles of Ruby, but is also pretty interesting in that he makes the analogy between how different natural languages shape your thinking (the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) versus how different programming languages shape your thinking. Worth a listen.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is most well-known as it came out of the research that found that the Inuit had far more words for snow than other languages (presumably because it was a much more intrinsic part of their environment and thus needed a greater level of granularity). That research has since been shown to be wrong, although it is still frequently cited.

You can find a bit more info on the programming language version of this argument on Wikipedia. Probably the best quote is:

“A language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing” – Alan Perlis

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