The Linguistics of JavaScript

Erin McKean (Google | Wordnik)
9:20am–9:35am Wednesday, 04/22/2015
Keynotes, Keynotes
Location: Salon 8/9
Average rating: ****.
(4.45, 22 ratings)

“Javascript is Esperanto that does something.” Constructed languages — conlangs — are artificially-created languages, a category which includes Esperanto, Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki, and yes, Javascript. Can thinking about Javascript the way we think about other human languages help us be better coders, or at least write more readable code?

Photo of Erin McKean

Erin McKean

Google | Wordnik

Erin McKean is the founder of the newly-not-for-profit, the world’s biggest online dictionary. Before founding Wordnik, she was the editor-in-chief of American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press, and before Javascript, she dabbled in HyperCard, Perl, and Omnimark (if you have ever written anything in Omnimark, she will buy you a drink). She’s the author of the Weird and Wonderful Words books, the best-selling novel The Secret Lives of Dresses, and (most recently) The Hundred Dresses, a field guide to dresses. She blogs at When you meet her, please tell her your favorite word.

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Picture of Erin McKean
Erin McKean
04/22/2015 1:08pm PDT

Eric - so sorry to have missed you! Would have loved to talk Omnimark. I didn’t realize at the time it was deliberately HyperCard-influenced; I was so new to computery things that I thought everything was like HyperCard (which I also used). :)

Eric Promislow
04/22/2015 4:04am PDT

Sorry I missed the talk. I was an original dev on OmniMark. It was early ‘89, and the thinking was that HyperCard’s verbose HyperTalk was the direction programming languages were going. It definitely influenced OmniMark’s syntax.

Matthew Payne
04/22/2015 2:36am PDT

re: closing remarks —
As a fan of groovy, I don’t value the ‘;’ semicolons so much in javascript. Thanks for the session though.