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Should simple but important questions about terminology belong to CSTheory.stackexchange.com?

Questions like this one:

Are grammars programs?

If not, to which site it may be moved?


There are no definitions in Wikipedia's article on programming language.

"A programming language is an artificial language" (1) "designed to express computations that can be performed by a machine, particularly a computer." (2) "Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine, to express algorithms precisely, or as a mode of human communication." (3)

Intended design purposes cannot be part of definition. So we must omit (2). Usage patterns also cannot be part of definition. So we omit (3). The rest is (1) which is very badly stated and clearly incomplete.

"A programming language is a notation for writing programs, which are specifications of a computation or algorithm."

No definition of program in Wikipedia and one can not define notion referring to other undefined notion.


"A computer program (also a software program, or just a program)" (0) "is a sequence" (1) "of instructions"(2) "written to perform a specified task for a computer." (3)

(1) Programs are clearly not always sequences. For example constraints or expressions are clearly not constitute sequences, but sets and trees correspondingly. (2) Programs are not have to be instructions. Are lambda expressions instructions? (3) intended purpose is not part of definition.

So we have no definition of programming language nor a program in Wikipedia.

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    $\begingroup$ IMHO, your question is more like an invitation to discussion (since as Suresh and others have noted the definitions are already stated in the Wikipedia articles), and this site is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    May 7 '11 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: if someone in the world understands exactly what programming languages are and can state it persuasively then it will be very basic and not discussion question. If not, such a definition may be generated by community during discussion and you're right. Since I do not know if only I have no good definition of PL I do not know if question will be discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Vag
    May 7 '11 at 7:50
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It's very difficult to comment on the given question, as it changed radically from something that made little sense to something which virtually answers itself. In the middle (and in the question above) is a discussion of the quality of Wikipedia entries, which is certainly not within the scope of our site.

If phrased in a sensible way, questions about clarifications of terminology are certainly within the scope of this site. But such terminology will need to relate to research-level theoretical computer science.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the explanation. Wikipedia mentioned only as side note, because Suresh Venkat said "At the very least, the question should explain why the standard definitions are in some way deficient." $\endgroup$
    – Vag
    May 7 '11 at 8:10
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The usual determination about such question is: is there widely accepted terminology that is easily accessible ? In this case, both concepts are defined on wikipedia (as others pointed out in the comments to the original question), and so it's not clear to me what more needs to be said. At the very least, the question should explain why the standard definitions are in some way deficient.

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  • $\begingroup$ Update: wikipedia articles explained. $\endgroup$
    – Vag
    May 7 '11 at 7:44
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I commented on the question:

David Barbour wrote up some ideas about Generative Grammar-based Computation on Lambda the Ultimate. I think the idea behind this, namely that describing grammars is programming and how far can this idea go, is a good theory B question, and deserves to be reopened.

Alternatively if the question is regarded as too problematic as it stands, asking a more focussed question along the same lines might be worth trying. First, I'll propose an edit to this question to see if it can be reshaped into something our 3k+ users would like to reopen.

Postscript No, I won't be proposing an edit to the question: apparently <2k rep. users can't do that with closed questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Given the amount of junk attached to the question, my inclination is to leave it closed and get the OP to propose a new question, which probably should be something like Can grammars be seen as specifying a model of computation? to which the answer will be yes. $\endgroup$ May 7 '11 at 8:00

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