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Our objective in this study was to obtain detailed empirical information about the nature of natural language “programming” to bring to bear on the issueosf increasing the usability of computer language interfaces. Although we expected numerous difficulties to be detected concerning the potentioalf actually implementing a system to interpret natural language programs, we were not prepared for the magnitude of what we see as being the three major obstacles: style, semantics, and world knowledge. Concerning the first, there is little way in which the vast differences in styles could be increased: programming-language style is simply alien to natural specification. With respect to semantics, we also were unprepared to find out the extent to which the selection of the appropriate “meaning” (to a word, phrase, or sentence) is dependent upon the immediate and prior context. And as for world nowledge, we suspect that the extent to which shared experiences and knowledge are critical to procedural communication and understanding among people has barely been hintaetd by our present data.
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