[erlang-questions] A proposal for Unicode variable and atom names in Erlang.

Chris Hicks <>
Fri Oct 26 08:04:47 CEST 2012

While I can understand the frustration that some people seem to fear, I can't help but think that there are solutions to problems that seem to be ignored. For example, if the language has full unicode support and tell the difference between characters which look the same to us, but are obviously not to the machine...how hard would it be to create a parser for a src file, or input, which literally does nothing more than turn the code into strings of the unicode value. Don't want the entire file? How about just the functions, listed in order? How about just one function matching the input just passed in. There just seem to be so many ways that a unicode capable system could compensate for our human failings.
Now, you can absolutely tell me that implementing a system that is aware and capable in that way is a royal pain in the ass and I would have zero experience with unicode to counter your argument. But if you could have your VM default to accept only a specific encoding and to throw warnings and stop, or continue depending on your needs, compiling/running a module then you could, with virtually no effort, make sure that at least your code is only interacts with other code that you expect.
That one example is hardly a complete system but the point is this. If expanding the language respects the cultural wishes of peoples and laws of other countries without detracting from the experience of those people who don't want to be bothered with it then don't we at least need to give it a serious look? If it's technically impossible without seriously compromising the integrity of the language then sure, don't do it, but even if it's difficult but can be done without degrading the experience of others...why not?

> From: 
> Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2012 18:43:51 +1300
> To: 
> CC: 
> Subject: Re: [erlang-questions] A proposal for Unicode variable and atom	names in Erlang.
> On 26/10/2012, at 4:28 PM, Henning Diedrich wrote:
> > As a third (true) horror I'll add Ulf's pseudo-whitespace experience to the list. I am in agony already over the days lost in the future due to someone inserting a Unicode look-alike into code that I cannot spot until I re-type the entire seemingly cursed code that-should-work-but-magically-doesn't. And have hex-view ready at my finger tips again to inspect awkward code. Thanks so much for the nightmare.
> And (b) the problem is not with there _being_ extra kinds of space
> character, but with their not being _treated as_ space characters.
> This is why _partial_ support for Unicode is a bad thing.
> > As an aside, I think I still don't believe what I understood there though: that a programming language could be banned on grounds of political incorrectness?
> Not that it can be *banned*,
> but that it cannot be *required* for any assessed work.
> Nobody says I can't use whatever I like.
> But there may very well be limits on what I can ask students to use.
> I would rather let that sleeping dog lie
> while the potential problem goes away.
> > 
> > Is it possible that those rules are wrong and banning a programming language for being, what, culturally biased, is over the top?
> > I still hope i read that wrong.
> Respect for the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is part of
> the law of this country.  Article the second reads (in a back
> translation of the Maori text into English):
> 	The Queen of England agrees to protect the Chiefs,
> 	the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in
> 	the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over
> 	their lands, villages and all their treasures
> and Te Reo is a these days regarded as taonga of the tangata whenua
> (a treasure of the [native] people of the land).  [Every word in
> this paragraph counts as 'English' here...]
> I'm sufficiently distressed by the continuing replacement of
> New Zealand English by American that I have strong sympathy with
> people wanting to keep Māori alive and functioning in all modern
> contexts, so I _want_ to let students use Māori.
> But in addition to that, the University has a clear policy.
> http://www.otago.ac.nz/administration/policies/otago003239.html
> Note in particular
> 	Principle 1
> 	In recognition of the status of te reo Māori as a taonga
> 	protected under the Treaty of Waitangi, and within the
> 	spirit of the Māori Language Act 1987, the University of
> 	Otago will endorse the right of students and staff to
> 	use te reo Māori, including for assessment.
> 			  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> I really don't want to ask for an official decision lest the answer
> be "no".
> I would expect any country with one or more minority languages
> whose speakers got a sufficient degree of legal protection to
> have similar policies.
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