A Programming Language is an artificial language created to issue instructions to a computer. Like natural languages it comprises of a dictionary of acceptable "words" and a set of grammatical rules (called syntax) that define how to arrange the words to give meaning.
Programming languages come in many shapes and sizes with different aims in mind. Some languages are created for a specific purpose i.e. to perform statistical analysis such as R. Others are designed to be "swiss army knives" and enable any task to be coded by allowing extreme versatility.
Purpose of Programming Languages
A programming language allows humans, who are used to abstract, generalised natural languages, to tell a computer how to perform certain processing tasks. Since a computer only deals with series of 0's and 1's (called Machine Code) it is up to the programmer of the computer to decide how to issue the correct sequence of these bits to get the correct answer. Since dealing with these low level digits is difficult programming languages were created to allow greater levels of abstraction.
This means that rather than figuring out what digits to issue to the computer, a programmer can use a language's "words" to form a series of instructions. These instructions are collectively called a programme and are typically written as text like a natural language. These instructions are then run through a special computer programme that converts the instructions into the 1's and 0's that make a computer operate.
By allowing programmers to write programmes using a language which is closer to human languages allows them to spend more time working on the problem at hand. It relieves them of having to remember how to deal with very low level aspects of computer hardware and instead deal with their "world of interest".
List of Programming Languages
Here is a small list of common programming languages:
- Visual Basic
See C2.com definition of programming languages as well as the list of programming languages.