Jeff Senn senn at maya.com
Thu Jun 5 13:47:28 CDT 2014

On Jun 5, 2014, at 2:22 PM, J. Leslie Turriff <jlturriff at centurylink.net> wrote:

> On Thursday 05 June 2014 12:24:12 Jeff Senn wrote:
>> On Jun 5, 2014, at 12:41 PM, Hans Aberg <haberg-1 at telia.com> wrote:
>>> On 5 Jun 2014, at 17:46, Jeff Senn <senn at maya.com> wrote:
>>>> That is: are identifiers merely sequences of characters or intended to
>>>> be comparable as “Unicode strings” (under some sort of compatibility
>>>> rule)?
>>> In computer languages, identifiers are normally compared only for
>>> equality, as it reduces lookup time complexity.
>> Well in this case we are talking about parsing a source file and generating
>> internal symbols, so the complexity of the comparison operation is a red
>> herring.
>> The real question is how does the source identifier get mapped into a
>> (compiled) symbol.  (e.g. in C++ this is not an obvious operation)
>> If your implication is that there should be no canonicalization (the string
>> from the source is used as a sequence of characters only directly mapped to
>> a symbol), then I predict sticky problems in the future.  The most obvious
>> of which is that in some cases I will be able to change the semantics of
>> the complied program by (accidentally) canonicalizing the source text (an
>> operation, I will point out, that is invisible to the user in many (most?)
>> Unicode aware editors).
> 	So if programmer A uses editor X to write code, and programmer B uses editor 
> Y to modify the code, suddenly the compiler might start generating multiple 
> symbols for some identifiers, causing compiles to fail for no obvious reason.
> 	It seems to me that "the complexity of the comparison operation is a red 
> herring" is perhaps a naive view;  this would produce a really high 
> astonishment factor.
> Leslie

I think we are agreeing (and miscommunicating) — the comparison operator
ON SYMBOLS is incredibly important. Of course symbols must be unique!

Comparing sequences of characters in the SOURCE for equality is almost a non-issue.
(Consider macros, case-insensitivty in some languages, context in languages such as C++, etc…)

You illustrate the problem in your example.  If I write (4 characters of source) code (because my editor uses
decomposed characters):

 ’a’ '<combing dot above>' ‘=' ‘1’

And you look at it and think you are going to write code to access that value
(and your editor uses composed characters - so you have 3 characters):

å = 2
‘<a-with-dot-above>' ‘=' ‘2’

Then we have astonishment.

> -- 
> "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be 
> slaves." --Henry David Thoreau
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