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Language Processor Jargon Explained

Just like we humans express our ideas to one another using a suitable and mutual language, the same applies to a computer system. A specific kind of language is required to make a dialogue with or interact with a computer effectively.

Most programs are written in high-level languages such as C++, Java, or Python. These languages, however, are designed majorly for people rather than machines. Computers can only understand programs (instructions) written in machine code, usually in the form of 0’s and 1’s.

As such, we cannot correctly communicate with computer systems without some sort of translator. This is the reason language processors exist!

What Then Is a Language Processor?

A language processor is a particular type of translator used to turn a program written in a high-level language (usually called a source code) into machine code (otherwise called object code) which the computer understands.

In other words, a language processor is a program that is used to translate an input program written in one programming language into another programming language. A language processor is also called a language translator.

Let’s now consider the types of language processors we have and discuss their functions, differences, etc.

Types of Language Processors

There are three types of language processors:

  1. Assembler
  2. Interpreter
  3. Compiler

Assembler

An assembler is a language processor which is used to translate the assembly language into machine language. Assembly language is a low-level programming language that is very similar to machine language. The only difference is that instead of using binary numbers (0’s and 1’s) to describe instruction, it uses mnemonic symbols.

Each mnemonic symbol represents an operation code or instruction. The assembler performs a one-to-one mapping to translate the mnemonic to machine language.

Interpreter

Every program passes through two phases: a translating phase and an execution phase. Both steps are carried out simultaneously by an interpreter. An interpreter converts the high-level source program into machine language. It does this by translating each statement of the program line by line into machine code and executes it almost immediately.

It then moves unto the following line, and this goes on and on till the end of the program if no error is encountered. If an error is encountered, the interpreter stops translating, highlights the error, and moves to the following line unless the previous error is removed.

An interpreter requires less storage space on the primary memory than a compiler and has been in use since as far back as 1952. Speaking of compilers, let’s see what they are all about.

Compiler

A compiler serves the same purpose as an interpreter. Still, unlike the latter, which translates the source code line by line, compilers translate the entire program into machine code at once. The translating phase and execution phase in compiled programming languages are entirely distinct.

Suppose any errors are on the source code. In that case, the compiler highlights them at the end of the compilation along with the lines in which the errors were found, rather than terminating the entire translating process like the interpreter would do. A compiler occupies more memory space and is costlier than an interpreter.

 

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