Angle Brackets - Computerphile | Summary and Q&A

January 29, 2016
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Angle Brackets - Computerphile


Programming language notation has evolved from Chomsky's compact representation to Backus-Naur Form (BNF) and ultimately XML, providing clear and self-explanatory definitions for programming languages and facilitating the development of how-to guides and formal program specifications.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Chomsky and Backus-Naur create different notations for defining programming languages?

Chomsky's notation appeals to mathematicians and computer scientists, using 'S' to represent sentences. Backus and Naur aimed for a more self-explanatory notation, using pointy brackets and '.' to define identifiers.

Q: What advantages does Backus-Naur Form (BNF) notation offer for language definitions?

BNF notation provides readable and understandable definitions for programming languages, making it easier to define and adhere to language rules. It avoids confusion and offers a blueprint for legal programs.

Q: How does XML relate to Backus-Naur Form (BNF) notation and programming languages?

XML evolved from BNF notation and serves as a way to represent structured data within actual documents. It allows for clear delineation of elements and boundaries, making it suitable for programming language-like notations in documents.

Q: How is XML used practically in web development?

XML is used in web development to define structured data within documents, such as HTML. It allows for clear representation of elements, such as paragraphs or break lines, with the use of start and end tags.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Chomsky's notation treats everything as a sentence, using the letter 'S' to represent all elements. In contrast, Backus and Naur introduced a more self-explanatory notation using pointy brackets to define identifiers.

  • Backus-Naur Form (BNF) notation allows for readable and intuitive definitions of programming languages, making it easier for non-technical individuals to understand and adhere to language rules.

  • XML, derived from the earlier SGML, builds on BNF and allows for the inclusion of programming language-like notations within actual documents, facilitating clear boundaries and structure.

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