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Language automata: the pervasiveness of English in computer programming

With Gui Heurich
Date & Time:
15:30 - 17:00,
Monday 29 November, 2021
Location:
Online session

About

During the past 70 years, the English language has come to dominate the world of computing. It has dominated it to such an extent that one needs to look very hard to find many working programming languages and systems which are not based on the English syntax, grammar, or vocabulary. One could argue that creating a programming language in other-than-English languages has become not only impractical, but perhaps even unthinkable. In this talk, I will explore how programmers conceptualize programming languages and related software systems to understand how the dominance of English has come to pass and operates today. I will look into programmer’s experiences, how language designers strive for readability, and how compilers are modeled after imagined ideas of what a language is. These examples will help us understand how thousands of programmers come to perceive English as the natural and professional language of the software world.

About Gui Heurich

Gui Heurich is an anthropologist and programmer. He holds a PhD in social anthropology from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and has also trained as a software engineer at Makers (London). His work focuses on the intersections between programming and anthropology. He was a Newton International British Academy Fellow and currently holds a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at University College London’s department of Anthropology.

Speaker

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Gui Heurich

University College London

Gui Heurich is an anthropologist and programmer. He holds a PhD in social anthropology from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and has also trained as a software engineer at Makers.