Stephen A. Edwards Columbia University Crown
COMS W4115
Programming Languages and Translators
Fall 2018


Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays 4:10 - 5:25 PM 451 CSB.


Name Email Office hours Location
Prof. Stephen A. Edwards see my home page 462 CSB
John Hui T 3:30-5:30 487 CSB
Jennifer Bi M 2-4 487 CSB
Mark Mazel Th 5-7 487 CSB
Lauren Arnett M 10-12 487 CSB
Dean Deng Th 3-5 487 CSB
Justin Wong T 12-2 487 CSB


The goal of PLT is to teach you both about the structure of computer programming languages and the basics of implementing compilers for such languages.

The course will focus mostly on traditional imperative and object-oriented languages, but will also cover functional and logic programming, concurrency issues, and some aspects of scripting languages. Homework and tests will cover language issues. You will design and implement a language of your own design in a semester-long team project.

While few of you will ever implement a full commercial compiler professionally, the concepts, techniques, and tools you will learn have broad application.


COMS W3157 Advanced Programming: You will be dividing into teams to build a compiler, so you need to have some idea how to keep this under control. Quick test: you need to know about Makefiles and source code control systems.

COMS W3261 Computability and Models of Computation: You will need an understanding of formal languages and grammar to build the parser and lexical analyzer. Quick test: you must know about regular expressions, context-free grammars, and NFAs.


Date Session Lecture Notes Reading Due
Wed Sep 5 1
Intro. to Languages
Ch 1, 2
Mon Sep 10 2
Language Processors
Ch. 2
Wed Sep 12 3
Some Outstanding Projects

Mon Sep 17 4
Programming in OCaml

Wed Sep 19 5

Mon Sep 24 6

Wed Sep 26 7
Syntax and Parsing
Ch. 3, 4
Mon Oct 1 8

pdf HW1
Wed Oct 3 9
Guest: Prof. Ray

Mon Oct 8 10

Wed Oct 10 11

Thu Oct 11
(turn in homework only)

pdf HW2
Mon Oct 15 12
Review for Midterm

LRM, Parser
Wed Oct 17 Midterm Exam
Mon Oct 22 13
The MicroC Compiler
App. A
Wed Oct 24 14

Mon Oct 29 15

Wed Oct 31 16

Mon Nov 5 Election Day Holiday
Wed Nov 7 17
Runtime Environments
Ch. 7
Mon Nov 12 18

Wed Nov 14 19
Types and Static Semantics
Sec. 6.5
Hello World
Mon Nov 19 20
Code Generation

Wed Nov 21 Thanksgiving Holiday
Mon Nov 26 21
The Lambda Calculus

Wed Nov 28 22

Mon Dec 3 23

Wed Dec 5 24
Review for Final

Mon Dec 10 Final Exam
Wed Dec 19 Project Reports Due

Suggested Text

Alfred V. Aho, Monica Lam, Ravi Sethi, and Jeffrey D. Ullman.
Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools.
Addison-Wesley, 2006. Second Edition.

The first edition was long the standard text on compilers; the second edition of the "dragon book" has now been updated and continues to be one of the more readable books on the topic. Columbia's own Prof. Al Aho is one of the authors.

Cover of the Dragon Book 2nd edition

Related Texts

Michael L. Scott.
Programming Language Pragmatics
Morgan Kaufmann, 2006. Second Edition.

A broad-minded book about languages in general, but has less on practical details of compiler construction.

Cover of Programming Language Pragmatics 2nd edition

Andrew W. Appel.
Modern Compiler Implementation in ML.
Cambridge University Press, 1998.

The opposite of Scott: focuses on compiler construction, not language design issues.
It uses the functional language ML, which is closely related to O'Caml, but just different enough to be annoying.

Cover of Appel

Lawrence C. Paulson
ML for the Working Programmer.
Cambridge University Press, 1996. Second edition.

A book about functional programming. It's written for the ML language, not O'Caml, but the two are closely related.

Cover of Paulson

Steven S. Muchnick
Advanced Compiler Design and Implementation.
Morgan Kaufmann, 1997.

A very extensive book on many aspects of compiler design. Starts about halfway through Appel and goes much farther. Recommended for serious compiler hackers only.

Cover of Muchnick

Objective Caml Resources

webpage The Caml Language Homepage. Compiler downloads and documentation. Start here.
webpage The Objective Caml System. Documentation and User's Manual for the whole system, including documentation for ocamllex, ocamlyacc, ocamldep, ocamldebug, and all the standard libraries.
webpage Emmanuel Chailloux, Pascal Manoury, and Bruno Pagano, Developing Applications with Objective Caml. An online book translated from the French (O'Reilly).
webpage Objective CAML Tutorial
.tar.gz file OCaml source for the four-function calculator.
.tar.gz file OCaml source and test cases for the MicroC language, which generates LLVM IR.

The Project

The focus of 4115 is the design and implementation of a little language. You will divide into teams and design the goals, syntax, and semantics of your language, and implement a compiler for your language.

Exception: CVN students will do the project individually.

Final Report Outline

This is a critical part of the project and will be a substantial fraction of the grade.

Include the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Language Tutorial
  3. Language Manual
  4. Project Plan
  5. Architectural Design
  6. Test Plan
  7. Lessons Learned
  8. Appendix

Project Resources

pdf A two-page introduction to the CVS version control system. I strongly suggest you keep your project under some version control system.
pdf An excellent final report: the Funk language by 4115 students Naser AlDuaij, Senyao Du, Noura Farra, Yuan Kang, and Andrea Lottarini.
pdf An excellent final report: the Sheets language by 4115 students Benjamin Barg, Gabriel Blanco, Amelia Brunner, and Ruchir Khaitan.

Language Reference Manuals

pdf Dennis M. Ritchie, C Reference Manual
pdf Kernighan & Ritchie, The C Programming Language
pdf The C Language Reference Manual (SGI)
pdf Stroustrup, The C++ Programming Language
pdf The Java Language Specification
pdf The C# Language Specification


AP++: (MM)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Amit Patel
BitTwiddler: (SE)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Bruno Martins
Casper: (SE)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Michael Makris
Coral: (LA)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Jacob Austin, Matthew Bowers, Rebecca Cawkwell, and Sanford Miller
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Ayer Chan, Jason Konikow, Graham Patterson, Frank Spano, and Christopher Thomas
Fli-O: (JH)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Matthew Chan, Gideon Cheruiyot, Justin Gross, and Eyob Tefera
GaE: (DD)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Jason Delancey, Andrew Jones, Samara Nebel, and Kevin Zeng
Grape: (DD)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
James Kolsby, Nick Krasnoff, Po-Yu Wu, and Hyun Bin Yoo
Graphiti: (DD)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Emily Hao, Sydney Lee, Michal Porubcin, Andrew Quijano, and Alice Thum
Hippograph: (JB)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Benjamin Lewinter, Irina Mateescu, Harry Smith, and Yasunari Watanabe
IRIs: (JH)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Hanzhou Gu, Xuheng Li, Shulan TANG, and Pinxi Tai
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Alana Anderson, Pearce Kieser, Katherine Pfleger, Julia Sheth, and Nicholas Sparks
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Shenghao Jiang, Yixiong Ren, and Shikun Wang
MathLight: (JB)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Mingye Chen, Chunli Fu, Yuli Han, and Boya Song
ProCSV: (JW)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Tahiya Chowdhury, Tabara Nosiba, and Tahsina Saosun
PyLit: (JW)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Ryan Loprete
SCoLang: (JB)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Sambhav Anand, Jackson Chen, Sushanth Raman, Varun Varahabhotla, and Kanishk Vashisht
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Ryan Chun, Garrison Grogan, Ryan Koning, and Trisha Maniar
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Jeevan Farias, Daniel Mesko, and Madeleine Tipp
Shoo: (JW)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Claire Adams, Samurdha Jayasinghe Mudi, Cindy Le, and Crystal Ren
Tree++: (JW)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Allison Costa, Laura Matos, Jacob Penn, and Laura Smerling
Typescript-on-LLVM: (SE)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Ratheet Pandya
Uni-Corn: (SE)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Maryam Aly, Adiza Awwal, David Lalo, Dan Sendik, and Gael Zendejas
VSCOde: (MM)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Jessica Cheng, Anna Lu, Hana Mizuta, Spencer Yen, and Kenneth Yuan
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Zoe Gordin, Eleanor Murguia, and Nadia Saleh
bawk: (JH)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Ashley An, Christine Hsu, Mel Sawyer, and Victoria Yang
text++: (SE)
pdfProposal pdfLRM
Joi Anderson, Maria Javier, and Klarizsa Padilla

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40 % Project
20 % Midterm
30 % Final
10 % Homework


You will collaborate with your own small team on the programming project, but you may not collaborate with others on homeworks. Teams may share ideas about the programming assignments, but not code. Any two teams found submitting similar code will receive zero credit for the whole assignment, and repeat offenses will be referred to the dean. See the Columbia CS department academic policies for more details.


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