Language Lawyering

1 2020-02-11 21:41

I reached that part of my life where there's a growing urgency to follow the treads of Dr. Bucephalus and retreat to study the books of law. However, while RnRSes are beautifully written documents that are a pleasure to read, most other formal documents that I have came across are better described as an amalgam of underspecified statements and paradoxical contradictions. Since I have never received proper education in this matter and my online research ended fruitless, I am now turning to you for your wisdom and guidance. Is there a method to this madness? How are we to study formal documents?

2 2020-02-11 23:23

Have you tried to read the Lambda Papers or do they fall under what you call "an amalgam of underspecified statements and paradoxical contradictions"?

3 2020-02-12 17:48

Not yet. But they are academic papers and I have read plenty of those. It's easy to find guidance on reading them. A prime example of what I was talking about is the POSIX shell specification.

4 2020-02-15 00:05

There was a time when I thought that reading software standard specification documents (e.g. RFC, IEEE, ISO, ect) should be the most effective way to learn about a particular class of software systems. Then I tried to read one. It turns out that some of them are nice. Some. Few. The rest (i.e. most, according to my sample) are as you (>>1) described: an amalgam of underspecified statements.

I think that they should, beyond merely agreeing on what the standard according to the convention is, make an effort to write up a few (as per various classes of individuals for whom it may be relevant) mutually consistent (according to the interpretations of the respective target audiences) ``introductions'' to it; this would aid adoption, this innovation. (Maybe we should write up a document consisting of an amalgam of underspecified statements, published as a proposal to amend the standards committees.)



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