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What Is Programming Language? Syntax, Top Languages, Examples

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25th Sep, 2023
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What Is Programming Language? Syntax, Top Languages, Examples

Computer programming is expanding daily, with new programming languages being launched yearly, adding to the list. 

Renowned companies now look for computer programmers with cutting-edge programming skills. Hence, in-depth knowledge of various programming languages is essential for most IT jobs. 

Given the many languages available to study in computer programming, it is natural to get confused with selecting the ones that will be the most beneficial in the long run. This blog covers the basics of programming language, a list of the most useful and popular languages and some examples to assist you.

What Is Programming Language?

A programming language is a computer language with a set of syntax and instructions that computer programmers use to develop multiple software applications, scripts, and systems by writing code that defines the desired behaviour and functionality.

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Programming languages are used to develop software, websites, mobile apps, and various computer programs. They enable developers to express complex algorithms and logic in a way that a computer can interpret and execute. Programming languages vary in complexity, purpose, and application domain.

According to the Online Historical Encyclopaedia of Programming Languages, developers have created nearly 8,944 coding languages. All these are registered programming languages, and the number of unregistered ones is close to 244 – 2444. 

What is syntax in programming?

Syntax refers to the set of structures or rules in programming that dictates the programming language style or form that is valid and is a meaningful code. 

Proper syntax is crucial for a program to be interpreted or compiled without any errors in the development process. 

Syntax defines the correct arrangement of keywords, punctuation and symbols that the specific language recognises as proper instruction. 

It is essential to understand all the syntax of a programming language for writing codes that the computer will understand to execute the specific command.

Types of Programming Languages

Programming languages can be categorised into several types based on various criteria, such as their level of abstraction, purpose, and execution. The basic categories are — low-level programming languages, high-level programming languages, and others.

What Is Low-level Language?

It is the computer’s native language, which allows programs and applications written in it to be executed without any interpretation. Some examples of low-level languages are:

  • Machine language consists of binary code directly corresponding to a computer’s hardware instructions. It is rarely used by programmers today due to its complexity and lack of human readability.
  • Assembly language is a step above machine language and uses mnemonic codes to represent machine instructions. Programmers can write more human-readable code than machine code, but it still closely maps to a computer’s architecture.

What Is High-level Language?

Closer to humans, high-level languages must be translated into machine language before the computer can execute it. Some examples include:

  • Procedural programming language – Follows a procedural paradigm where a program composition is a series of routines or procedures that can be executed step-by-step. Procedural programming consists of instructions enabling the manipulation or modification of data and state. It includes languages such as Fortran, C and Pascal.
  • Functional programming language – In this type, an evaluation of mathematical functions needs to be computed without any change in mutable data and state.
    Functional programming languages are first-class citizens, meaning they can be passed as arguments to other functions, assigned to variables and returned as results. It includes languages such as Erlang, Lisp and Haskell.
  • Object-oriented programming language – To answer ‘What is object-oriented programming language?’, OOP is a programming paradigm that structures the provided code around the program’s objects. These objects represent real-world entities with behaviour/methods and data/attributes.
    OOPs emphasise inheritance, polymorphism, encapsulation, reusability or code and provide modular software development approaches. A few key features of object-oriented programming language are:
  1. Objects and Classes – Classes can be defined as templates or blueprints that define the behaviour and structure of objects. Objects are representations or instances of these classes with their own properties.
  2. Encapsulation – Refers to the methods and bundling of data (attributes) that operate on that data within a single unit (objects), which allows an object to be hidden to promote security and privacy.
  3. Inheritance – Refers to a mechanism that permits a class to inherit behaviour and properties from another class, which promotes a hierarchical organisational of classes and enables code reusability.
  4. Polymorphism – Refers to objects of different classes being treated as objects of a common superclass, which permits the representation of multiple types of objects that enable the dynamic behaviour of the object at runtime.
  • Scripting language – These scripts are a series of commands or instructions executed in a specific order to perform or automate tasks. Scripting languages are interpreted, or the code is executed a line at runtime by an interpreter, unlike compiled languages, which are usually translated into machine code before execution. 

The most popular scripting programming languages are JavaScript, Ruby and Python.

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Other Programming Languages

Some other languages include:

  • Logic programming language – This programming paradigm is based on formal logic, where programs are constructed by defining a set of facts and rules.
    These facts and rules represent relationships and knowledge rather than a sequence of procedural steps. The most used logic programming language is Prolog.
  • Imperative programming language – Refers to the programming paradigm composed of a specific sequence of statements that changes a program’s state.
    Among the most common programming paradigms, it describes the steps the computer must take to perform a specific task, often called an algorithm.

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List of Computer Programming Languages

Multiple programming languages serve various purposes, such as developing games and applications, creating software, etc. Here is the list of computer programming languages.

Application Development

The development process of an application requires a broad range of programming languages, and here are some of the popular ones:

  • Java – used for enterprise-level application
  • Python – favours scientific computing and automation
  • C# – used for NET framework for building Windows application
  • Swift – used for Apple-developed language
  • Kotlin – used for Android application development
  • PHP – particularly a server-side scripting language
  • Ruby – used for productivity and simplicity of application development.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Development

This type of technological advancement requires a specialised area that will assist in creating an intelligent system that can successfully perform a task that needs human intelligence. To create an AI, multiple languages are needed; some of the useful ones are:

  • Python – the most popular language for developing AI due to the huge availability of numerous frameworks and libraries.
  • R – another popular type of language that helps in AI’s statistical modelling and machine learning tasks.
  • Julia – a rapidly growing language known for its speed and ease of workability.
  • C++ – primarily used for low-level algorithms.

Database Development

When it comes to database development, managing and accumulating data are crucial to storing, retrieving and manipulating. Programming languages that perform CRUD (Create, Read, Update and Delete) operations are used for this domain. Here are some of the important ones:

  • SQL (Structured Query Language) – one of the most popular languages used for interaction with relational databases.
  • Python – is used in numerous frameworks and libraries, such as Django ORM, SQLite3
  • PHP – is extensively used in cases requiring database-specific extensions such as PDO and MySQLi.

Game Development

Developing games is a specialised field that depends heavily on designing and creating intuitive interactions to engage players on mobile devices, PCs, consoles and many more. Professionals working in game development use specific game engines and programming languages to create one, and some of them are:

  • C++ – is one of the most extensively used programming languages due to its capability of working on low-level performance devices.
  • Python – is used for scripting game logic or prototyping and supports game engines such as Pygame and Godot.
  • Lua – is a lightweight scripting language with AI programming within the game engine.

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Hardware Development

Even though programming language plays a minor role in hardware development, some hardware description language and software tools commonly used are:

  • VHDL – is a hardware description language used specifically for designing digital systems.
  • MATLAB – known for its utilisation in scenarios such as hardware development for modelling, control system design and simulation.

Website Development

Multiple programming languages are often used to develop websites as it involves building web applications and websites for the internet. Here are some common programming language preferences for website development:

1. Front-end Development:

  • JavaScript – used for front-end development
  • React – is a JavaScript library used for building user interfaces.

2. Back-end Development:

  • Ruby – for rail frameworks and known for its developer-friendly syntax.
  • JavaScript (Node.js) – permits developers to use JavaScript on the server side.

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Top Programming Languages

Close to 700 programming languages are popular globally for their specific field of functionality. To become a proficient software developer, you need to be aware of the top programming languages to improve your skills in coding and problem-solving.

  1. C# : used for NET framework for building Windows application
  2. PHP: particularly a server-side scripting language
  3. C++ : primarily used for low-level algorithm
  4. SQL (Structured Query Language): one of the most popular languages used for interaction with relational databases.
  5. C++: one of the most extensively used programming languages due to its ability to work on low-level performance devices.
  6. Python: used for scripting game logic or prototyping; supports game engines such as Pygame and Godot.
  7. MATLAB: known for its utilisation in scenarios such as hardware development for modelling, control system design and simulation.

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What Programming Language Should I Learn?

First, you need to identify your field of interest, the types of projects you wish to work on and your career goals to choose the programming languages most suitable for you-

  • Mobile Application Development – Java and Kotlin (for Android), Swift (for iOS).
  • Game Development – Unreal Engine, Unity, JavaScript
  • Web Development – JavaScript, CSS, TypeScript (Front end) and Python, Node.js (Back end)
  • Data Science and Machine Learning – Python
  • Embedded Systems and IoT – Bash and Python
  • AI and Robotics – Python

Getting Started

To get started with the program learning journey, here is a step-by-step guide that you can follow:

  1. Choose a language that aligns with your goals and interest
  2. Set up a proper development environment to work
  3. Learn all the basics first 
  4. Lastly, practice to reinforce your learning
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Conclusion

Programming languages are the tools that enable developers to turn their ideas into functional software. The choice of programming language depends on various factors, including project requirements, performance considerations, and personal preferences. As technology continues to evolve, new languages will emerge, each catering to specific niches in the ever-expanding world of software development.

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FAQs

Profile

Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are 3 examples of programming languages?

The most popular examples are Python, Java and JavaScript.

2What is the present C language standard?

The current standard of C language used is C11.

3What is high-level language, and what are its advantages?

This type of programming language is designed for better readability and understanding for humans. One of its major advantages is it promotes faster development.

4What is scripting language, and how is it used in programming?

Scripting languages are used in scripting tasks and automation. They are commonly used for web development, automation and system administration.

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