Programming Languages

Presentation at DSLDI workshop

Tillmann Rendel
Tillmann Rendel
delivers a talk on Formal Semantics as a Language Designer’s Toolbox at the International Workshop on Domain-Specific Language Design and Implementation (DSLDI) in Portland, Oregon. The talk is based on joint work with Paolo Giarrusso
Paolo G. Giarrusso
, Klaus Ostermann
Klaus Ostermann
, and Eric Walkingshaw.


With the rise of domain-specific languages, more people are designing languages than ever, but the art of language design is hard to master. In this talk, we make a case for adapting insights from formal semantics into design patterns and conceptual tools for language design. The conceptual tools presented in this talk are phrased as language design patterns, in the hope of bringing the usability and applicability of software design patterns also to the domain of language design.

Semanticists have invested significant effort in developing these insights in the pursuit of mathematical elegance, indirectly providing us with a toolbox full of design tools that are simple and powerful. We introduce a few of these design tools, illustrating how language designers can start applying insights from formal semantics right now, without being experts in the subject or incurring the overhead of formalizing their entire language.

The design tools we present are just a starting point and we hope to inspire other language designers to adapt this utilitarian view of formal semantics, to help us reuse the effort and expertise of semanticists by adapting their insights into easily applied design tools.

Further Information