The Future of Language

What is the future of the English language?

For the younger generation it looks something like this - UR2 KEWL. While in business the future of communication may be more formal, in our personal lives it is becoming more spontaneous, more conversational and more casual.

It's all about freedom of expression. Language may change as a result.

But is change good or bad? For years, writers have complained about the deterioration of the English language or indeed of language in general.

George Orwell warned us that "English was in a bad way" in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language." Cicero complained that the Latin he heard around him in the first century BC was disgraceful.

In an effort to prevent the deterioration of the French language, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Academie Francaise in 1635. But preserving the language in a time capsule failed to protect it and English replaced French as the language of diplomacy, just as French had once replaced Latin.

So either languages adapt to a changing world or give way to those that do.

What does this tell us about the future of language in computing?

Java and .NET dominate our modern technology universe, but in many ways are the French and English of computing. Both are open and very mature. Of the two, Java is the oldest and while it continues to evolve, changes often come slowly and with difficulty. In contrast, Microsoft continues to invest in .Net and interoperability, co-existing with Java while at the same time challenging its future.

Other languages continue to appear, but linger on the fringes. Languages like Python and F# for example are often simpler, more flexible and more dynamic yet so far lack the depth and vocabulary to become main-stream.

Programming language largely becomes an expression of style and task at hand.  The major difference is with the Java runtime (JVM) you can only easily express yourself with the Java language, however, with the .NET runtime (CLR) you can express yourself in VB, C#, C++, Perl, Python, Java(1.6 and below) and new comers like F#, etc.  So freedom of expression is enabled with .NET while the Java Platform remains restrictive.

What languages will dominate in the future? The simplest and easiest to use, least costly to support and which provide the quickest time to market are likely to flourish. But more importantly those that adapt most easily to a rapidly changing environment.

At the moment, .Net looks like the best candidate. Will Java become the next COBOL? But even if that happens there is still plenty of COBOL work around.

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