Introduction to Natural Language Programming

Natural-language programming (NLP) is an ontology-assisted way of programming in terms of natural-language sentences, e.g. English. A structured document with Content, sections and subsections for explanations of sentences forms a NLP document, which is actually a computer program. Natural languages and natural-language user interfaces include Inform7, a natural programming language for making interactive fiction, Ring, a general-purpose language, Shakespeare, an esoteric natural programming language in the style of the plays of William Shakespeare, and Wolfram Alpha, a computational knowledge engine, using natural-language input. Some methods for program synthesis are based on natural-language programming.

NLP is a way for computers to analyze, understand, and derive meaning from human language in a smart and useful way. By utilizing NLP, developers can organize and structure knowledge to perform tasks such as automatic summarization, translation, named entity recognition, relationship extraction, sentiment analysis, speech recognition, and topic segmentation.

Natural-language programming is a top-down method of writing software. Its stages are as follows:

  • Definition of an ontology – taxonomy – of concepts needed to describe tasks in the topic addressed. Each concept and all their attributes are defined in natural-language words. This ontology will define the data structures the NLP can use in sentences.
  • Definition of one or more top-level sentences in terms of concepts from the ontology. These sentences are later used to invoke the most important activities in the topic.
  • Defining of each of the top-level sentences in terms of a sequence of sentences.
  • Defining each of the lower-level sentences in terms of other sentences or by a simple sentence of the form Execute code “…”. where … stands for a code in terms of the associated high-level programming language.

Repeating the previous step until you have no sentences left undefined. During this process each of sentences can be classified to belong to a section of the document to be produced in HTML or Latex format to form the final natural-language program.
Testing the meaning of each sentence by executing its code using testing objects.
Providing a library of procedure calls (in the underlying high-level language) which are needed in the code definitions of some low-level-sentence meanings.
Providing a title, author data and compiling the sentences into an HTML or LaTex file.
Publishing the natural-language program as a web-page on the Internet or as a PDF file compiled from the LaTex document.
The smallest unit of statement in NLP is a sentence. Each sentence is stated in terms of concepts from the underlying ontology, attributes in that ontology and named objects in capital letters. In an NLP text every sentence unambiguously compiles into a procedure call in the underlying high-level programming language such as MATLAB, Octave, SciLab, Python, etc.
Symbolic languages such as Wolfram Language are capable of interpreted processing of queries by sentences. This can allow interactive requests such as that implemented in Wolfram Alpha. The difference between these and NLP is that the latter builds up a single program or a library of routines that are programmed through natural language sentences using an ontology that defines the available data structures in a high level programming language.

A natural-language program is a precise formal description of some procedure that its author created. It is human readable and it can also be read by a suitable software agent. For example, a web page in an NLP format can be read by a software personal assistant agent to a person and she or he can ask the agent to execute some sentences, i.e. carry out some task or answer a question. There is a reader agent available for English interpretation of HTML based NLP documents that a person can run on her personal computer.

An ontology class in a natural-language program that is not a concept in the sense as humans use concepts. Concepts in an NLP are examples (samples) of generic human concepts. Each sentence in a natural-language program is either (1) stating a relationship in a world model or (2) carries out an action in the environment or (3) carries out a computational procedure or (4) invokes an answering mechanism in response to a question.

A set of NLP sentences, with associated ontology defined, can also be used as a pseudo code that does not provide the details in any underlying high level programming language. In such an application the sentences used become high level abstractions (conceptualisations) of computing procedures that are computer language and machine independent.

The above is a brief about Natural Language Programming. Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in Technology.

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