ECSEL homepage ECSEL Graduate Courses Linköping University

Course description - GRASS foundational course

Principles of Programming Languages and Environments


MSc in a non-computer science area and some programming experience.

Motivation and Objectives

The course presents basic principles behind the design of programming languages. Basic notions are language, abstraction, typing, and semantics. Basic principles of integrated and interactive programming systems are also presented.


  1. What is a programming language?. Abstractions in programming languages. Computational paradigms. Language definition, translation and design.
  2. Language design principles such as efficiency, generality, orthogonality, and uniformity.
  3. Language properties. Syntax, basic semantics. Data types, type information, type constructors, type equivalence, type conversion. Control constructs, procedure environments, activations, allocations. Abstract data types. Overloading and polymorphism. Modules and separate compilation. The mathematics of abstract data types.
  4. Programming paradigms. Procedural programming, object-oriented programming languages, functional programming languages.
  5. Basic semantics, such as bindings, semantic functions, scope, allocation, extent, the environments. Formal semantics of programming languages. Operational semantics, Natural Semantics, and Denotational semantics. Automatic generation of language implementations from specifications.
  6. Principles and methods behind interactive and integrated programming environments. The notion of consistency. Examples of such environments. Source code configuration management and version control systems and mechanisms.


The course is mainly based on lectures, estimated 15 hours, 3 hours per week. The students should have a quick reading of the material before each lecture to enable discussions. There will also be a few practical programming exercises, e.g. generating a small translator from specifications.


Homework problems. A few practical programming excercises in Mathematica.
Active participation during lectures.
The first hour (13.15-14.00) of each lecture is devoted to discussions of solutions of previous
exercise assignment, where students present their solutions. Anybody who has not completed those exercises should not be present the first hour, and will have to do a separate presentation of solutions.


Kenneth C. Louden: Programming Languages, Principles and Practice. PWS Publishing Company, Boston, 1993. (ISBN 0-534-93277-0)  or 2:nd edition, Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2003, (ISBN 0-534-95341-7)

Peter Fritzson: Specifying Practical Translators using Natural Semantics and RML. (kompendium).

Peter Fritzson: System Development Environments. (kompendium)

Peter Fritzson, Johan Gunnarsson, Mats Jirstrand:
MathModelica - An Extensible Modeling and Simulation Environment with Integrated Graphics and Literate Programming. (paper, 14 pages)

Web page

Course web page:
Course material and Mathematica lecture notebooks are available here.
See the lectureplan for reading instructions.


Fall 2004, Week 42-48

Lecture 1+2: October 11, 13.15-16.00  hus B, Donald Knuth


Lecture 3: October 18,     13.15-16.00  hus B, Donald Knuth
Lecture 4: Nov 1,             13.15-16.00  hus B, Donald Knuth

Lecture 5: Nov 8,             13.15-16.00  hus B, Donald Knuth 

Lecture 6: Nov 22            13.15-16.00  hus B, Donald Knuth (last lecture, most exercises completed)


Donald Knuth,hus B, Sas stora konferensrum,2:nd floor, B-corridor, close to south end of B-house


3 credits


Peter Fritzson