21st century linguistics: helping computer scientists write better code

By Jeffrey Day

Raúl Aranovich, an associate professor of linguistics at UC Davis, is using his knowledge of language structure and theory on a project to identify programmers most likely to write vulnerable code.

He is working with UC Davis computer scientists Prem Devanbu and Vladimir Filikov on a National Science Foundation funded project called “Language, Computation and Cybersecurity.

Q&A with Raúl Aranovich

“There’s this big debate whether an author leaves a quantitative fingerprint on his or her work. It could be from things like average sentence length or how many adverbs you include in your writing or your speech,” Aranovich said.

“We are looking at open-source software communities where developers collaborate online. Because all collaboration is online there’s a lot of language involved, and also a lot of code that’s being exchanged. We’re trying to see what the social dynamics of programmers are around their style for coding and their linguistic style. Once we identify these linguistic profiles within the group and we understand the group dynamics then we can find which programmers are more prone to writing vulnerable code.”

Read a full Q and A with Aranovich at the UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences.

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