Could we have a speak-only programming language?

“Hey Alexa, store a macro called ‘In case of nuclear war’”
“Okay, what are the instructions for the macro ‘In case of nuclear war’?”

Charles Moore, the inventor of FORTH, back in 1983, said

The next language has got to be
spoken, because voice recognition is
coming along very quickly. I don’t
know that people oughtn’t to type at
keyboards; keyboards are a very
flexible interface device. But they
don’t want to, they aren’t going to.
They want to talk to their computers. I
think FORTH could be a good spoken
language if we eliminate some am-
biguities that are in it.

FORTH Dimensions, July/August 1983

If we were able to speak a macro / script / program (call it what you will) what might a text representation look like and how might it be spoken?

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I fear this might be sidestepping the sentiment behind your question, but i find it difficult to think of a language so inseparable from its written syntax that it couldn’t be interfaced via a system like this:


IMHO voice recognition has to be developed yet some more so that it recognizes contexts better. Then we’re close to how they operate with computers in Star Trek.

I like talking to people who are learningl languages so that they can develop their conversational skills, and in many cases the development is noticeable within a few months. You can usually deduce what the other party is trying to say from their body language or their supplemented foreign language expressions. But I’m not sure how that would work with computers.

Interesting idea though, programming syntax is sometimes tedious to learn and there are many people who would just like to try out their ideas, but this syntax thing is just in their way.

In Emily’s (author of Talon, see above) presentation, she goes into a lot of detail about the general practicality of programming by speech:

TL;DR: It’s a thing. Plenty of professionals are doing it successfully :slight_smile:


Fresh from the recent Strange Loop conference:
“Cursorless: A spoken language for editing code” by Pokey Rule

Video description:

If you could design a spoken language from scratch for editing code, how would it look? What would be your nouns? Would they be tokens? Functions? Lines? What would be your verbs, your adjectives, and your adverbs?

Cursorless is one answer to these questions: a spoken language designed for maximally efficient code editing by voice. Cursorless leverages the tree-sitter real-time parser to enable high-level, “smart” code manipulations while retaining the flexibility to use “dumb” primitives like tokens, lines, delimiter pairs, and regexes when necessary.

Learn how a handful of simple abstractions - actions, modifiers, marks, and scopes - empower Cursorless users to create powerful and concise command chains that would leave even the most seasoned vim user drooling on their keyboard.

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