fourth generation language

Also found in: Acronyms.

fourth generation language

(4GL, or "report generator language") An "application specific" language, one with built-in knowledge of an application domain, in the way that SQL has built-in knowledge of the relational database domain.

The term was invented by Jim Martin to refer to non-procedural high level languages built around database systems.

Fourth generation languages are close to natural language and were built with the concept that certain applications could be generalised by adding limited programming ability to them.

When given a description of the data format and the report to generate, a 4GL system produces COBOL (or other 3GL) code, that actually reads and processes the data and formats the results.

Some examples of 4GL are: database query language e.g.SQL; Focus, Metafont, PostScript, S, IDL-PV, WAVE, Gauss, Mathematica, and data-stream languages such as AVS, APE, Iris Explorer.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Founded in 1980, Unify began in the RDBMS market, with the Accell fourth generation language following shortly afterwards.
The consecutive invention of assemblers, compilers, editors, third and fourth generation languages, structured languages, Object-Oriented Programming, rules-based systems, CASE, repositories, databases, and data warehouses have advanced much more slowly than their hardware counterparts.
Although there is some disagreement in the literature about what the term fourth generation languages means (some say what distinguishes these languages is that they are nonprocedural), here we take the position that a 4GL is a higher-level, problem-focused language.