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Characteristics of Interpreted Languages

One of the main benefits of interpreted languages is that they require no compilation. The language is interpreted at run-time so the instructions are executed immediately.

Any errors in an interpreted program will result in the execution of the code to be halted.

Interpreted languages also have a simple syntax which, for the user:

  • makes them easy to learn and use
  • assumes minimum programming knowledge or experience
  • allows complex tasks to be performed in relatively few steps
  • allows simple creation and editing in a variety of text editors
  • allows the addition of dynamic and interactive activities to web pages

Also, interpreted languages are generally portable across various hardware and network platforms and scripts can be embedded in standard text documents for added functionality.

Unlike a compiler, an interpreter checks syntax and generates object code one source line at a time. Think of this as very similar to a group of translators at a United Nations' Conference, who each have to convert sentences spoken by delegates into the native language of their representative.

When an error is encountered, the interpreter immediately feeds back information on the type of error and stops interpreting the code. This allows the programmer to see instantly the nature of the error and where it has occurred. He or she can then make the necessary changes to the source code and have it re-interpreted.

As the interpreter executes each line of code at a time the programmer is able to see the results of their programs immediately which can also help with debugging.

Next: Features and characteristics of compiled languages