Formal Language

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formal language

[¦fȯr·məl ′laŋ·gwij]
(computer science)
An abstract mathematical object used to model the syntax of a programming or natural language.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Formal Language


(1) In a broad sense, a formal language is a set of in some way specialized linguistic means that is provided with more or less precisely defined rules for forming expressions (the syntax of the formal language) and for assigning meaning to the expressions (the semantics of the language). Generally speaking, this use of the term “formal language” does not assume any special restrictions on the syntactic structure, semantic rules, or purpose of the language. For example, the expressions “H2O,” voda, eau, “water,” Wasser, and vesi can, in principle, be considered in equal measure elements of the formal language of chemistry.

(2) In logic, a formal, or formalized, language is an interpreted calculus, that is, a formal system with an interpretation. The use of formal languages is characteristic of mathematical logic, which is often defined as “the subject of formal logic as studied through the construction of formal languages.” It should, however, be noted that this definition is by no means an inherent attribute of presentations of mathematical logic. The concept of formal language not only does not generally occur in particular logico-mathematical languages but, strictly speaking, is not even an element of any specific metalanguages. It is, rather, a useful working term in preliminary heuristic elucidations of the subject matter of mathematical logic.


Church, A. Vvedenie v matematicheskuiu logiku, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960. Introduction (subsecs. 00–09). Translated from English.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
If we regard natural and formal languages as the first two levels of modern language theory, it is possible to identify a third.
Formal language theory lies at the foundation of most programming languages and general computer science.
Their topics include conceptual modeling using Petri nets, thermal analysis of the microprocessor without interlocked pipeline stages (MIPS) formulated within discrete event system specification (DEVS) convention, modeling a Chilean hospital using specification and description language, the formal consistency verification of the unified modeling language (UML) requirement and analysis models, an integrated framework to simulate SysML models using DEVS simulators, and an overview of agent-based social modeling and the use of formal languages.
[5] were the first ones to suggest the paradigm of checking of UML models based on reasoning mechanism of a formal language. Its idea is translating UML models and their consistency rules to any formal language.
In the classical context, this happens as soon as the formal language has infinitely many elementary letters; for many non-classical logics, it can also arise in the finite case.
* at formal language level (consistency conflicts are detected by inference mechanism of formal language).
The Chomsky hierarchy includes the regular, context-free, context-sensitive, and unrestricted formal languages, which have both grammatical and automata-theoretic definitions.
When formal languages are used, an author attempts to communicate meaning by specifying axioms in a logical theory.
** Ontologies--communities will use the formal languages to define both domain-specific ontologies and top-level ontologies to enable relationships between ontologies to be determined for cross-domain searching, exchange, and information integration.
IDEAlliance will sponsor Extreme Markup Languages 2003, a conference intended to enhance understanding of markup practice and theory, knowledge access and navigation, formal languages, information philosophy, and more.
Weisman Art Museum--explores, according to McDonnell, "both why visual artists chose vaudeville theatres, revenue halls and early motion picture houses as subjects and how they developed formal languages to communicate what they experienced."

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