The Stripetalk Papers: Understandability as a Language Design Issue in Object-Oriented Programming Systems

Authors: T.R.G. Green, A. Borning, T. O'Shea, M. Minoughan, and R. Smith

In Prototype Based Programming, James Noble, Antero Taivalsaari, and Ivan Moore (eds.), Springer-Verlag, 1998.


Language features that influence the learnability and understandability of Smalltalk (O'Shea 1986) have motivated us to explore alternative language designs. We present a language space whose dimensions correspond to the ways of dealing with these identified learnability-influencing features. For example, one dimension represents how new objects are created in a language; we consider prototype-based copying and class-based instantiation. We establish the positions of some existing languages in this space and locate several new ones. Some of these languages may hold promise for improved learnability and understandability, and we propose a mechanism for testing them with comparison studies. An important observation from the current explorations has been that it is necessary to consider language features in the context of the tools provided by the environment; the effectiveness of a particular linguistic feature is enhanced or diminished by the degree of environmental support provided for it.

full paper: pdf

Constraints home page