Reuse and co-evolution in CBS language specifications

Peter Mosses

Date: Wed, March 20, 2019
Time: 720.0
Room: 0.E420 COLLOQUIUMZAAL (Turing)

It can be a huge effort to give a complete formal specification of a major programming language, and then to update it when the language evolves. This appears to discourage most language developers from exploiting formal specifications to document their language designs. One of the main aims of the CBS meta-language, designed by the PLanCompS project, is to significantly reduce the required effort. A unique feature of CBS is that it comes together with a substantial library of reusable components called funcons (fundamental programming constructs). The semantics of each funcon is pre-defined, so specifying a translation of a language to funcons defines the language semantics; this can be significantly less effort than direct specification. When a language evolves, the translation of unaffected language constructs does not change. Crucially, adding new funcons to the library does not require changes to the definition or use of the previous funcons. In this talk, we demonstrate how reuse and co-evolution in CBS work: we first specify a small pure functional programming language by translation to funcons, then extend the language with mutable variables and concurrent threads. CBS is supported by an IDE (implemented in Spoofax) and by a Haskell package for generating modular funcon interpreters from funcon definitions.

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