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A programming language is an artificial language designed to express computations that can be performed by a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine, to express algorithms precisely, or as a mode of human communication.

Many programming languages have some form of written specification of their syntax (form) and semantics (meaning). Some languages are defined by a specification document. For example, the C programming language is specified by an ISO Standard. Other languages, such as Perl, have a dominant implementation that is used as a reference.

The earliest programming languages predate the invention of the computer, and were used to direct the behavior of machines such as Jacquard looms and player pianos. Thousands of different programming languages have been created, mainly in the computer field, with many more being created every year. Most programming languages describe computation in an imperative style, i.e., as a sequence of commands, although some languages, such as those that support functional programming or logic programming, use alternative forms of description.

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