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The Plain English Programming Language

"Plain English" is like no other programming language I've ever seen. Unlike the many "write only" languages (which you can learn to write, but are very difficult to read and understand) this seems to be a "read only" language. I find it stunningly easy to read and understand, but rather difficult to write anything in. I think a non-programmer might find it easier to learn. My brain is rather "infected" with C. And Javascript.

Here is a list of what you must understand from the start:

Types

Primitive types like number, etc.. are supported, as well as more complex types like "thing" which is a sort of object or list, and any number of user-defined types. Note however that "number" is a 32 bit integer and is /directly/ mapped to the CPU. E.g. addition is literally this in the language:

To add a number to another number:
Intel $8B85080000008B008B9D0C0000000103.

And yes, that is 80x86 machine code in Intel hex format. It decompiles to

mov eax, [ebp+8]	;load the current stack address + 8 into the accumulator
mov eax, [eax]  	;load memory pointed to by accumulator into accumulator
mov ebx, [ebp+12]	;load the current stack address + 12 into working register
add [ebx],eax     	;add accumulator to memory pointed to by working register

So the language has stacked pointers (all parameters are passed by reference) to the two numbers via a number to another number and then it calls this code which gets the first number, and adds it to the second. Hopefully this example shows how high level and low level Plain English is at the same time.

"The whole system is built on just two, compiler-defined types: BYTE and RECORD. All the other types are constructed from these, and are defined in the "Noodle" library {a file, loaded by the compiler}. The idea was to put as much as we could in the library, and as little as possible in the compiler. The compiler is aware of a few other types -- like NUMBER, STRING, SUBSTRING, THING -- mostly for memory management purposes, but all the other the type definitions are built up from BYTE and RECORD in the library." These are extended to support BYTE, WYRD, POINTER, FLAG, and RECORD.

Subset types give new names to existing types: e.g.
A count is a number.
A name is a string.

Constants or "literals" are also possible:
The copyright byte is a byte equal to 169.

As are conversion types:
A foot is 12 inches.
An hour is 60 minutes.

Variables

Once a type has been declared, we can allocate a global, outside a routine
The great foo is a number.
then values may be assigned, inside a routine
Put 0 into the great foo
or be passed by address...
Increment the great foo.
as a parameter to a routine.
To increment a number:
Add 1 to the number.

Note that variables can have multi-word names including spaces.

Local variables, with scope in their own routine only, are defined so simply they can be hard to see. Basically, you assign a value using an indefinite article (A, AN, ANOTHER, or SOME) in a statement. For example:
Put 101 into some other course number.
The local variable name there is "other course number" but "other course" also works as a "nickname". The variable's type is number. e.g.
Increment the other course.

will match To increment a number:

"All parameters passed to Plain English routines are passed by reference, though parameters passed to DLLs use the C convention (the order is reversed and "simple" types are passed by value)."

Routines

Routines are defined by headers which terminate in a colon, followed by the body of the routine. Multiple headers can be provided in front of one routine, separated by semicolons:

To add a number to a count;
To increment a number by a count:

The language parses these into Monikettes: (1) add (2) [number] (3) in/into/to (4) [count] which, taken together make up the routines Moniker: add [number] in/into/to [count]

Matching procedure definitions to procedure calls is done in stages.

1. Higher-level types are reduced to compatible lower-level types, as necessary; and
2. Certain less-essential words are considered equivalent.

For example, the compiler will match this imperative sentence: Write the first name using the blue pen. with this routine header To write a string with a color: even though the source types "name" and "pen" are different (but compatible) with the target types "string" and "color", and even though the source preposition "using" is different than the target preposition "with".

Unless, of course, a more exact match is available, such as:
To write a name from/given/with/using a pen:
To write a name from/given/with/using a color:
To write a string from/given/with/using a pen:

Type reductions proceed, recursively, from left to right, until a match is found (or all combinations have failed, which results in a compile-time error).

Decider: A type of routine which helps TO DECIDE IF something: by always returning SAY YES or SAY NO. The something will usually include ARE, BE, CAN, COULD, DO, DOES, IS, MAY, SHOULD, WAS, WILL, or WOULD. e.g.

To decide if a number is greater than another number:
If the first number is greater than the second number, say yes.
Say no.

Function: A routine that extracts, calculates, or otherwise derives a value from a passed parameter. Function headers take this form:

TO PUT something's something INTO a temporary variable:

Unlike procedures (which are called via imperative sentences) and deciders (which are implicitly called in the condition part of IF statements), functions are not usually called directly. Instead, the "something's something" is used as if it was a field in a record. Like a "box's center", which you won't find in the "box" record, because it is calculated by a function on demand.

Statements

From the instruction manual (see link below):

(1) I really only understand five kinds of sentences:

(a) type definitions, which always start with A, AN, or SOME;
(b) global variable definitions, which always start with THE;
(c) routine headers, which always start with TO, which can contain:
(d)   conditional statements, which always start with IF; and
(e)   imperative statements, which start with anything else.

(2) I treat as a name anything after A, AN, ANOTHER, SOME, or THE, up to:

(a) any simple verb, like IS, ARE, CAN, or DO, or
(b) any conjunction, like AND or OR, or
(c) any preposition, like OVER, UNDER, AROUND, or THRU, or
(d) any literal, like 123 or "Hello, World!", or
(e) any punctuation mark.

(3) I consider almost all other words to be just words, except for:

(a) infix operators: PLUS, MINUS, TIMES, DIVIDED BY and THEN;
(b) special definition words: CALLED and EQUAL; and
(c) reserved imperatives: LOOP, BREAK, EXIT, REPEAT, and SAY.

See also:


file: /Techref/language/plain_english.htm, 12KB, , updated: 2021/5/26 20:44, local time: 2021/10/24 23:22,
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