[OT] On the Expressive Power of Programming Languages

Steven Schveighoffer schveiguy at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 16:37:07 UTC 2020

On 11/14/20 8:01 PM, Paul Backus wrote:
> What do we mean when we say that one programming language is "more 
> expressive" than another? Is it just a matter of opinion and personal 
> taste, or is there some underlying objective truth? And is more 
> expressiveness necessarily a good thing?
> Based on a 1991 paper by Matthias Felleisen, this presentation by 
> Shriram Krishnamurthi is an accessible and easy-to-digest introduction 
> to some of the programming-language theory that goes into answering the 
> above questions. If you have even a passing interest in 
> programming-language design, it's well worth your time to give this a 
> watch.
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43XaZEn2aLc

I enjoyed the talk and like the principles shown.

But I think this doesn't really answer the question of which language is 
more expressive than another, because they are completely separate 
languages. It's more of a test as to whether a language feature adds 
expressiveness to an existing language (that is, when language A is 
equivalent to language B + feature F).

And the bar is pretty high. I don't know if there are many "expressive" 
features left to add to D if we go by this definition unless we go 


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