Programming Language (CS 550)

 Announcments  Lectures  Programs  Course Resources   Assignments and Solutions  Grading Policy
Course Description
Covers basic concepts of the design and implementation of programming languages, including data representation and types, functions, sequence control, environments, block structure, subroutines and coroutines, storage management. Emphasizes language features and implementation, not mastery of any particular languages.
This is a core course required by all graduate Computer Science students and is an elective for graduate Software Engineering students. The course is available to other students with sufficient programming experience (see prerequisites) who have an interest in programming languages (e.g. Information Systems, Computer Engineering, etc.).
Course Themes
  1. Evaluation and implementation of of programming languages
  2. Tools for describing and analyzing languages, including syntax, semantics, and pragmatics
  3. Tools to design new languages
  4. Programming Paradigms (imperative, functional, logic, object-oriented
  5. Implementation of programming languages
Course Objectives
  1. Be able to compare and evaluate different programming languages and implement different programming constructs and features (e.g. variables, loops, procedures, dynamic memory).
  2. Be able to formally specify the syntax and semantics of programming languages.
  3. Be able to write a parser and a scanner.
  4. Be able to write a translator to convert from one language to another.
  5. Be able to describe the semantics of and implement an interpreter and compiler for a simple programming language.
  6. Be comfortable with the major programming paradigms and be able to use at least one language from each paradigm.
Course Benefits
  1. Easier to express algorithmic ideas
  2. Better able to formally express concepts
  3. Improved ability to select appropriate languages
  4. Easier to learn new languages
  5. Understand the significance and impact of language choices and constructs
  6. Able to design new languages (little languages, interface specifications, protocols)
Assumes familiarity with the basics of logic (predicate calculus), recursion and induction, data structures, automata, and grammars. All students should be proficient with at least one object-oriented programming language (e.g. java, C++) - inheritance, polymorphism, and should have seen at least two different programming languages.
Jeremy Johnson
Office: University Crossings 100C
e-mail: jjohnson AT cs DOT drexel DOT edu
office hours: R 4-6 (UC 100 and online) additional hours by appointment.
Kevin Lynch
Office: University Crossings 147
e-mail: kml33 AT drexel DOT edu
office hours: M 8-9 and T 8-9 (online).
Meeting Time
Thursday 6:30-9:30 in Univ. Crossings 153 and online. The online and in class versions of the course will be identical (in class lectures will be recorded and posted on webct and use of online discussions will be required by everyone).
Course Discussion Groups
BbVista will be used for class discussion and announcements - check regularly

Please use this list for questions and discussions related to the course. If you know the answer to someone's question, please feel free to jump in, as long as well it is not an answer to a homework problem. I will moderate the list so that frivolous mail and spam is not forwarded.


  1. Week 1: Functional Programming (ch. 10 and SICP)
  2. Week 2: Lambda Calculus (ch. 10)
  3. Week 3: Object Oriented Programming (ch. 9 and SICP)
  4. Week 4: Logic Programming and Query Languages (ch. 11 and SICP)
  5. Week 5: Parsing and Grammars (ch. 2)
  6. Week 5: Midterm
  7. Week 6: Mini Language Interpreter (ch. 4)
  8. Week 7: Scanner and Parser Generation (ch. 2)
  9. Week 8: Mini Language Compiler (ch. 14)
  10. Week 9: Compiler Optimization (ch. 14)
  11. Week 10: Data Types (ch. 7)


  1. Homework and participation (70%)
  2. Midterm (15%)
  3. Final Exam (15%)
Assignments 4, 5 and 6 will be done in groups. Students will be assigned to groups before Assignment 4 (4 students each - members may come from either the in class or online sections). Peer grading will be used for group participation and discussion groups will be set up in BbVista for each group and all members are expected to participate in the discussions and contribute to every assignment.


Reference Books
  1. John R. Levine, flex & bison, O'Reilly & Associates. An online copy of this book is available through Drexel's library (safari). This is a rewrite of the older book on Lex and Yacc by Levine, Mason, and Brown.
  2. John R. Levine, Tony Mason, Doug Brown, Lex & Yacc, 2nd/updated edition (October 1992), O'Reilly & Associates. An online copy of this book is available through Drexel's library (safari).
  3. Alfred V. Aho and Jeffrey D. Ullman, Foundations of Computer Science - C Edition, W. H. Freeman and Company, 1995.
  4. Kenneth Louden, Programming Languages: Principles and Practice, 2nd Ed., Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2003.
  5. list reference books here.
Web Pages
  1. Ken Louden's Web resources for hist text Programming Languages.
  2. [SICP] Abelson and Sussman, Structure and Interepretation of Computer Programs.
  3. Graphviz - Graph Visualization Software.
  4. CUP Reference Manula - Parser generator for Java.
  5. PLY - Python Lex-Yacc.
  6. scheme
  7. MIT/GNU Scheme
  8. Lambda Calculus Tutorial from Chris Barker at NYU.

Look Here for Important Announcements

Announcements (Last updated Sun. Mar. 21)


This list is tentative and may be modified at the instructor's discretion.
  1. Lecture 1: Introduction to List Processing and Functional Programming in Scheme (ch. 10 of the text and ch. 3 and 4.1-3 of SICP)
  2. Lecture 2: Functional Programming and Operational Semantics of Scheme (ch. 10 of the text and ch. 3 and 4.1-3 of SICP)
  3. Lecture 3: Lambda Calculus (ch. 10)
  4. Lecture 4: Logic Programming and a Simple Query Language (ch. 11 [logic programming] and ch. 4 of SICP [query language])
  5. Lecture 5: Mini Language Interpreter (ch. 11 [logic programming] and ch. 4 [semantic analysis])
  6. Lecture 6: Grammars and Parsing (ch. 2 [Programming Language Syntax] and ch. 4 [semantic analysis])
  7. Lecture 7: Dynamic Memory Allocation and Garbage Collection (ch. 3 sec. 2 [Object lifetime and storage management] and ch. 7 sec. 7-8 [Pointers and recursive types and Lists])
  8. Lecture 8: Mini Language Compiler (ch. [])
  9. Lecture 9: Scanner and Parser Generation (ch. 2 [Programming Language Syntax] and ch. 4 [semantic analysis])
  10. Lecture 10: Object Oriented Programming and Implementation (ch. 9)

Programs and Worksheets



Created: 3/30/07 [last updated 4/5/12] by jjohnson AT cs DOT drexel DOT edu