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Scheme, Lisp, and a Central Future
All my life I have wondered about something, about which I am too ignorant to do
anything. Reading this fascinating list, I am moved to think that there may be some list members smart enough to do something about
it. In doing so, they may create a future for Scheme, or something similar to Scheme, that could be quite bright and long lasting;
so I'll mention the subject, and then go away and let you all ignore it, ridicule it, or discuss it. I'll not pretend to comment or
add to any such discussion, since I am not qualified to do so.
A programming language could be created, based on Scheme, but using Chinese
characters rather than the western alphabet. Western punctuation marks such as
parentheses could be used to delineate the Chinese characters, but perhaps it would be "better" or "purer" to use significant spaces
instead. The bottom line, though, would be to create a computer programming language that primarily uses Chinese characters.
There are several possible advantages to such a language:
1. It might appeal to the 850 million or so Chinese whose first written language is Mandarin, as well as the millions of other
educated Asians who are familiar with Chinese characters as well as their own native tongues (Japanese, Korean, etc.). After all,
the Chinese written language is more than 3000 years old and has a great deal of cultural momentum.
2. As far as I know, no programming language of any consequence has ever been created using Chinese characters, or using any Asian
language as its base, for that matter. While using English-based progamming languages is perhaps of no great disadvantage to Asian
programmers, there could still be a matter of pride, as well as practical utility in the primary educational area, to having a
"native" language progamming language.
3. Chinese characters, some of which, including the core "radicals" are ideographic in nature, may offer some benefits to
a. Terseness: because the characters can express, in one symbol, as much as several English words, it could be that a
Chinese-based language could be used to write programs that are much shorter than equivalent programs in other
b. GUI, event driven programming; Chinese characters could be especially good at
graphical programming. The few hundred core, or radical, characters, that are all well known and memorized by all educated
Asians, could be used to tersely represent a good selection of GUI widgets, as well as actions or methods to
act upon those widgets.
Finally, a functional, highly recursive language might be a good fit for a Chinese-character based programming language. Ironically,
Scheme, despite its parentheses, might be less punctuation-dependent than most languages. In particular, Scheme seems to lend itself
quite well to a style of expression that is highly symbolic, highly abstract, and terse; Chinese characters can add to all three
And, also ironically, the "common expectations" or bias of some western programmers towards procedural languages using C-like syntax
will hardly be an issue with the billions of Chinese students being introduced to computer programming in the next century.
A very high level, highly symbolic, terse and efficient computer programming language could be a nice fit for the mathematical minds
of east Asia. Such a language could be especially timely as we enter into an age of more complex graphical computing paradigms, and
in a century in which China becomes the dominant economy of the world.
Anyway, what do you think, Matthias and others? You would need colleagues who are completely fluent in Mandarin and also in computer
science, but they should be available in academia.
Why should the whole world, for all time, be shackled to the limitations of one European language and one alphabetic system? The
alphabet is superior in many ways for its adaptability to various diverse and rapidly evolving spoken languages, but a future
computer world is perhaps best served by a higher-level, more intensely symbolic, somewhat graphical, object oriented symbolic
system that is not tied to any one spoken language, but rather ideally represents the underlying concepts.
The Arabic numerals we all use are already the defacto numerical system for China and all of Asia. A programming language using
those numerals and Chinese characters as its only tokens could be a winner. While such a language need not be based on Sceme, but
could be based on any other programming language, why not incorporate the best ideas in computer science into such a language?