Re: [xsl] recursive loop in XSL stylesheet is failing
Subject: Re: [xsl] recursive loop in XSL stylesheet is failing|
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 13:58:05 -0400
At 12:53 PM 3/25/2010, David wrote:
I still think that variables are misnamed in XSL
the terminology matches all uses that I'm aware of including
mathematics and fairly old computer languages such as lisp and newer
functional languages such as ML, haskell, F#, etc.
When I was first shown programming (fortran and algol) in the 70's
a big deal was made that "variable" in those languages was a strange
computer-related thing that didn't mean what you would expect it to
mean and that x=x+1 was ok despite the fact that it was clearly
nonsense in mathematics.
That was exactly my experience too. X=X+1 was bizarre; I had to learn
that it was a named value that was being reassigned, and rewire my
brain to accept that "variable" was the word being used for it.
And I'm not even a mathematician.
As a student of natural languages, however, I'm keenly aware that
it's easier for the human brain (especially the aging brain) to
reassign meanings to old words than for it to establish entirely new
words. (Until, that is, both become impossible.)
In other words, the developers of FORTRAN and BASIC and all needed to
call it something, and "variable" was close enough. That is, even
though it contradicted the technical meaning in mathematics, it was
close enough to a reasonable natural-language sense ("something that
can vary") that it was an effective fit.
A few decades later and there seem to be people so exposed to this
usage that they have convinced themselves that it is somehow natural:-)
Quite. It is a feature of the brain's rewiring capacity to be able to
forget that it has done so. (To say nothing of the experience of
people like Richard who were never wired the old way to begin with.)
As a teacher, my advice is to notice that words don't always mean the
same thing, and get used to it. This is not less true when dealing
with computers -- which, linguistically speaking, aren't really their
own realm at all, but only a weird between-space connecting people
with processes -- than any other time.
Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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