I'm thinking of questions like "What languages have XYZ?", "Do any languages have XYZ?", or so on. Let's call them "list-of-languages" questions, because the answer is expected to be a list of existing languages which have the asked-about feature or property ─ or, perhaps, an answer saying that no such languages exist.

There are a few existing questions along these lines, but not that many ─ I searched for "what languages", "which languages", and "do any languages" and found only these three:

Judging by their scores, all three have been well-received ─ but only the third one currently has good answers directly responsive to the question. The first has just one answer mentioning a language which compiles to Lua (as opposed to Lua bytecode), and the second has no answers. It's also easy to come up with examples of list-of-languages questions which would probably not be very useful, e.g. "What languages have exceptions?" or "What languages have mutable strings?".

What standards should we have for list-of-languages questions? What guidance should we give to people writing or judging such questions?


2 Answers 2


Here's a context in which "Do any languages have XYZ?" questions are helpful.

Imagine I have an idea about a potentially new programming language feature. Maybe there are a few existing (but obscure) languages that has already explored that idea, or something approaching. In that case, I don't want to lose time reinventing everything that's already been tried.

I'd rather directly go read about these languages, and learn how they designed the feature, evaluate how closely it matches my idea, and learn how much of a success the idea was in practice.

In that case, it would be useful if answers could also provide information about how each language has designed the feature, and whether there are significant differences in their design.

Of course in this scenario, if the feature isn't new at all and many relatively well-known languages implement it, that makes the question less interesting and shows a lack of research effort.



These questions don't seem to be particularly useful for designing/implementing programming languages yourself. The answers to them may be interesting when accompanied by more information about why those languages have <XYZ>, but if answers only include a list of languages with the given feature, they're not particularly helpful to anyone but the question asker. I'd treat them similarly to questions asking for tutorials and other off-site resources.

They can, however, be turned into more useful questions by making them about why a language would do <XYZ> rather than which languages do <XYZ>. For example, the second question could be turned into something like "Why would a language provide arrays whose lengths are always a power of two?"

Such questions can also be made on-topic by making them about how a language would implement <XYZ>. For example, the first question could be turned into "How to include source locations when compiling to Lua bytecode?", which would be useful to someone who is making a language that targets Lua bytecode and wants their error messages to be helpful.


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