CMSC 22100/32100: Programming Languages

Fall Quarter, 2008 
TTh, 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm
Ryerson 276


Instructor Contact Info
Course Description
Course Textbooks
Programming Exercises
Course Policies
Course Mailing List
Course Schedule
Homework Assignments
Homework Solutions
Sample Code
Additional Useful Links
Programming in SML


The first class will be on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008 at 1:30pm in Ry 276.

The first homework submission on October 7 will not be graded for contents. The set of questions gets re-assigned as homework 2.

The Final Exam will take place from 1:30pm to 3:30pm on Thursday, December 11, in Ryerson 276.

Instructor Contact Info

Name Role Office Office hours Phone Web or e-mail
Matthias Blume Instructor UofC Press building, #257 By appointment 4-7494
Siwei Wang TA Ry 177 Tue 4-5pm, Thu 4-5pm siweiw [at] cs [dot] uchicago [dot] edu
Wonseok Chae Volunteer TA UofC Press building 4-2621

Course Description

Programming languages are the most fundamental tools involved in the creation of software, and thus play a key role in computing. This is a foundational course exploring the principles and concepts underlying the design of programming languages. We use a formal approach based on operational semantics to give clear and precise descriptions of language concepts, such as flow of control, data structures and types, modularity and abstraction, and concurrency. The major paradigms of imperative, functional, and object-oriented paradigms will be covered, though the functional paradigm will be the main focus because of its simplicity.

Students should have experience programming in one or more programming languages, and familiarity with basic concepts of naive set theory and logic would be helpful. Inductive definitions and inductive proofs will play a central role.

The course is being taught as a combinded graduate/undergraduate course this year. There will be additional reading and assignments for the graduate students.

Course Textbook

The main textbook for the course is Programming Languages: Theory and Practice by Robert Harper. This is available in two versions as pdf files: online.pdf suitable for online viewing, or offline.pdf suitable for printing. Note that this is a different (and older) version of the book than the one you find at the author's home page.

A supplementary text for the graduate students taking CMSC 32100 is Programming Languages and Lambda Calculi by Matthias Felleisen and Matthew Flatt.

Other references that are useful for background material or further study are:

Programming Exercises

This is not a course centered on programming projects, but programming examples and exercises that show how to implement the ideas expressed in operational semantics will be given using the language Standard ML. There are several good sources of documentation and tutorials for SML/NJ available online, and some of these are given in the course SML/NJ page.

Course Policies

Course Mailing List

A mailing list has been created for the course. The address is The web page for the mailing list is at a
Please send your subscription request to
(A subscription request consists of an e-mail with the single word subscribe in the body or the Subject: line.)

Course Schedule

A (tentative) schedule of the lectures will be posted later. (Watch this space.)

Homework Assignments

Here are links to PDF files of the homework assignments.

Homework 1 (due Tuesday, Oct 7); Sample solution
Homework 2 (due Tuesday, Oct 14) is identical to Homework 1;
Homework 3 (due Tuesday, Oct 21);
Homework 4 - part 1 (due Tuesday, Oct 28);
Homework 4 - part 2: programming exercise (due Tuesday, Oct 28);
Homework 5 - part 1 (due Tuesday, Nov 4);
Homework 5 - part 2: programming exercise (due Tuesday, Nov 4);
Homework 6 - part 1 (due Tuesday, Nov 11);
Homework 6 - part 2: programming exercise (due Tuesday, Nov 11);
Homework 7 - part 1 (due Tuesday, Nov 18);
Homework 7 - part 2: programming exercise (due Tuesday, Nov 18);
Homework 8 - part 1 (due Tuesday, Nov 25);


Links to PDF files of the handouts will be posted here:

Lecture notes: continuously updated to cover material of past lectures.
lec0.pdf: Offline course description
lec-sml.pdf: Standard ML crash-course
hw1-a.tex: LaTeX source for homework 1 (serving as sample LaTeX code)
mathpartir.sty: Didier Rémy's style file for typesetting inference rules and for a "mathematical" paragraph environment (mathpar); see hw1-a.tex above for an example how to use it
Comments on Homework 1
Final exam (with solutions)

Sample Code

Links to sample code will be posted here:

let-language, small-step semantics
let-language, big-step semantics
co-routines in SML/NJ using callcc
Meta-circular interpreter(Reynolds)
De-functionalized interpreter (Reynolds)
Simple (non-polymorpmic) type-inference for MinML

Papers and Presentations

The Mechanical Evaluation of Expressions by Peter Landin (Computer Journal, 1964)
The Next 700 Programming Languages by Peter Landin (CACM, 1966)
Definitional Interpreters for Higher-Order Progamming Languages by John Reynolds (1972)
A Structural Approach to Operational Semantics by Gordon Plotkin.
The Discoveries of Continuations by John Reynolds.
Structure and Abstraction in HOT Languages (Marktoberdorf Summer School Notes, 2000).

Additional Useful Links

Frank Pfenning at CMU has a web site for his version of a course 15-312 Foundations of Programming Languages based on Harpers draft book. This web site has some very useful supplementary lecture notes, as well as assignments, software, and other resources. You may find it useful to browse through this site and download some of the material.

Matthias Blume

(This page was created by adapting the page of a previously held course by David MacQueen.) Last modified: Wed Sep 30 11:25:41 CST 2008