There was recently a thread on erlang-questions that discussed how you would present Erlang in 5 seconds. In an unrelated thread it is possible Richard Carlsson managed to nail it:
In most respects, Erlang _is_ a concurrent, nondestructive Lisp with a Prolog-inspired syntax that focuses on pattern matching and rules.
For my own reference he original email:
Nick Linker wrote: I wonder why Erlang is not Lisp? I mean why inventors of Erlang chose to create its own language instead of creating just ERTS-specific library for LISP (or at least Scheme)? Here are some reasons why Lisp might not be a perfect match to the problem they wanted to solve: - no built-in concurrency - destructive updates abound (in Scheme, too) - no pattern matching And if you're going to fix those things, you might as well use a syntax that feels more comfortable to you. In particular, pattern matching makes function definitions and selective receives much more readable, which I assume was an important goal for the kind of industrial applications that Erlang was created for. In most respects, Erlang _is_ a concurrent, nondestructive Lisp with a Prolog-inspired syntax that focuses on pattern matching and rules. /Richard