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Re: Of Legal Language and CS Notation

> Hi Peter:
> > The short answer is yes, lawyers don't really talk that way other
> > than to key in on issues. And no, legal language is really more of
> > a historical accident.
> Are you sure that's what you meant to say?  Because I don't believe
> that.  I have no trouble believing that the actual structure of legal
> language is a historical accident, in just the same way that the use
> of bars to write type (and logical) judgments is probably a historical
> accident, and the use of lambda most definitely is one.  And if so, is
> all other jargon explicable as a historical accident too?
> Shriram

Hi Shriram:

    Well it depends on which definition of legal language you are using.
    Yes, I avoid using convoluted historical speech patterns that appear
in legal boiler plate. No, I don't avoid using Terms of Art to identify
issues or being extremely wary of ambiguous wording.

    Likewise, the Surface Structure of legal language is more of a
historical accident. However, its Logical Form and Deep Structure are
functions of the *gasp* mathematical model it captures.

    You can thus treat Terms of Art as macro calls and expand them and
treat flaky archaic linguistic patterns as true idioms substituting in
their underlying meaning.

    Then you will find that "sound" legal writing and analysis are
highly mathematical - capturing a proof that given a set of facts and
their categorization under a set of identified legal rules a desired
outcome must pertain. Each element of this first order proof is then
subject to a recursive analysis as to why it may or may not pertain, and
so forth to some depth bounded by the mental acuity of the argument's
author. Individual sub-proofs may depend on fuzzy logic or humanist
value judgments, but the deep structure is not accidental.

    But instead of adopting a two dimensional equational representation
replete with greek letters and abstract glyphs, we use something closer
to Knuth's Literate Programming style - eliding sub proofs and
referencing Terms of Art in their place, with the understanding that
"this issue will be taken up elsewhere".

    So we manage to do math in practice and realize the added benefit
that our modularization of legal proofs make it possible to explain them
to non-lawyers with perhaps somewhat less difficulty than a
mathematician would have in conveying a formal proof of the same order
of complexity.

    So I would have to say that the choice of symbols used for jargon is
almost always a historical accident, but that the choice of factoring
out what should be abstracted at each level is rooted in something more
concrete. Thus use of lambda is an accident, but the notion of 'a
function' is not.

    IMHO, language designers ought to be every bit as concerned with the
Psychology of Programming and Human-Computer Interaction as they are
with Type Theoretic Static Analysis.

    Thus the goal of End User Programming Language Design should be to
expose as many fundamental concepts of CS as possible, but to strip away
any confusing artifacts of jargon and notation to the greatest degree
possible, and to make them available to motivated End Users in a
sequence and presentation style that they can most readily absorb.

    This is why I find the language levels of PLT Scheme to be one of
the most important contributions to programming language research in
recent memory.

Warmest Regards,



Peter J. Wasilko, Esq.
     J.D., LL.M.               

Executive Director, The Institute for End User Computing, Inc.

Visit us on the web at: http://www.ieuc.org


It's time to abandon brittle architectures with poorly factored
interfaces, gratuitous complexity, and kludged designs dominated
by sacrifices on the altar of backwards compatibility.

Such artifacts are vulnerable to cyber-attack, weigh down the
economy costing trillions of dollars in lost productivity, and
suffer from an impoverished conceptual model that lacks the
integration and elegance needed to empower end users to
get the most from advanced applications in the future.

The Institute for End User Computing --- Pursuing Secure, Simple, 
   Supple, & Sophisticated Systems to Unlock Our Human Potential

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