|Expanding Access to Science and Technology (UNU, 1994, 462 pages)|
|Session 4 : Intelligent access to information: Part 2|
|The new world of computing: The sub-language paradigm|
The typical industrial manager will have many sub-languages, for example:
- schedules and deliverables
- budgets and fiscal control
- personnel assignments and administration
Underlying each of these, and a part of every sub-language, are the general dialect of the manager's natural language, a complete graphics package, text editor, electronic mail, voice messaging, etc. Once he has chosen to use any one of his sub-languages, all of these services will be immediately available; the manager will not be aware of which service a phrase of his query may have invoked as he proceeds in his normal way: "Send this draft budget to my section managers with the following message: '. . . (voice) . . ."'; "Schedule a meeting with them sometime on Wednesday afternoon."
How are sub-languages created? Initially, there is one sub-language, BASE. It contains a limited dialect of English that is adequate to handle expressions concerning typical relational, or entity-attribute databases with inheritance. It also contains a graphics package, text editor, electronic mail, etc., as mentioned above. To create a new sub-language, say "Finances," one "bases" it on BASE: base Finances on BASE, or, for that matter, on any pre-existing sub-language that may be available. Then, choosing this new sub-language: enter Finances, one has all the capabilities of the based upon sub-language immediately available. One can then extend this new sub-language in many ways (these will be discussed below).
In figure 6, engineering manager E.D. Moore creates a sub-language to share with his three subordinate managers. Now any of the four of them can use, modify, and extend this common sub-language "EngSec." Thus they jointly maintain a common, up-to-date view of their joint activities (e.g., preliminary designs, personal schedules). This is the significance of being able to "enter."
There is a strong asymmetric relationship between a sub-language and all of the sub-languages on which it is based, either directly or indirectly. Suppose one sub-language, "Accounting," is based on another, "Personnel Accounting": base Accounting on Personnel Accounting. Any changes in Personnel Accounting are immediately reflected in Accounting; however, Accounting can be changed in any way without affecting Personnel Accounting. This asymmetric relationship is characteristic of basing.
In figure 7, showing the accounting sub-languages, the people in the Personnel Accounting Section are the only ones who are authorized to enter the Personnel Accounting sub-language; therefore, they are the only ones who can change it; the same holds for the Contracts Accounting and General Accounting sub-languages. Accounting is based on each of these three. No one is authorized to enter Accounting; therefore no one can make any changes in it. Of course, it is automatically always up to date with the latest data from Personnel Accounting, Contracts Accounting, and General Accounting.
Appropriate managers are authorized to base on Accounting. One of the Department Manager's sub-languages is based on both Accounting and Production, and therefore always has available the very latest accounting information. The manager may well have had the application programmers add a number of grammar rules, graphic output formats, and icons, so that overviews of the complete operation are always readily available. These added facilities would only be available in this particular sub-language, but would always utilize the latest accounting and production data. A member of the manager's staff, looking into the possible change in the pricing structure for company products, could also base a staff study sub-language on Accounting, change many of the entries to values reflecting the new pricing structure, then examine the inferred results, and finally arrange appropriate graphics for a presentation (without, of course, affecting the Accounting sub-language at all). In figure 8, placing one sub-language above another indicates that the top one has been based upon the one immediately below.