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Re: Language vs. Library

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg61145] Re: Language vs. Library
  • From: "Steven T. Hatton" <hattons at>
  • Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 03:21:45 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <did3bd$qij$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

David Annetts wrote:

> Hi Steve,
>> If we look at compiled and byte compiled languages such as
>> C,C++,Java, C#, etc., we see they typically consist of a core
>> language, and standard libraries.  In C, and C++ the
>> demarcation is very clear. I know I've asked a similar
>> question in the past, but it's something that recures to me
>> every time I start working with Mathematica.  Is there a core
>> Mathematica language?  If so, what does it consist of?
> What does it matter?
> In any case, I'd take the "core" language as "any function in any context
> that is available when you first start the program after it is first
> installed".  Others may well have another definition.

I'm not sure what you mean here by "function".  In Mathematica there are
expressions and commands. I would be hard pressed to give formal
definitions of either.  I assume by "function" you intend "command".  In
the core C and C++ languages, there are no builtin functions.  The standard
libraries for these languages do, however, provide functions, as well as
classes and templates in the latter case. (One might argue that the
function main() is defined in these languages. But that goes too far afield
for this news group.)

> Like most languages though, much of the power comes when external
> functions, either in standard or user-supplied packages (libraries, etc,.)
> are used. In a sense, the language is more like Fortran than C/C++, since
> there is a
> lot that is available without loading anything.  C/C++ programs which
> don't use external functionstend to be very limited and most (or all)
> programs written using this language tend to use a combination of external
> functions from the standard and purpose-written libraries.
> However, for questions like this, definitions of "core" don't really
> matter since some of the standard libraries (eg Graphics`) tend to be used
> almost
> as defaults.  Once again, what does it actually matter?

Very much so.  Mathematica provides a huge number of symbols, options,
commands, end etc.  Distinguishing the essential from the incidental is
necessary in order to effectively use a tool as complex as this.
"Philosophy is written in this grand book, The Universe. ... But the book
cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language...
in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, ...;
without which wanders about in a dark labyrinth."   The Lion of Gaul

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