Infoscience

Thesis

Embedded Domain-Specific Languages using Libraries and Dynamic Metaprogramming

Domain-specific programming is bound to play a central role in improving the productivity of writing software. This is because modern, intricate, general-purpose abstractions are rarely applicable directly to everyday programming. However, such abstractions can be used to encode domain-specific abstractions, so that the general-purpose language serves as a host in which domain-specific fragments are embedded. The benefit of traditional software engineering is maintained, while allowing writing software that integrates multiple domains. This thesis describes two such techniques in Scala –a modern language with functional and object-oriented features. The first allows embedding fragments of code with domain-specific syntax, which is weaved within the host language's own syntax so that it appears as being different. The second technique uses structural types to encode domain-specific correctness properties that object-oriented types cannot represent. An implementation of structural types in Scala is also described. The common characteristic of both techniques is that domain-specific properties are provided by a library relying only on general-purpose abstractions. However, the techniques also exemplify how certain embedding tasks rely on data that is available in the compiler but is then lost in statically-typed languages. General-purpose abstractions do not give access to this data, nor do traditional runtime reflection techniques; keeping all data is also impractical. This thesis describes two metaprogramming techniques whereby compiler data on code (code lifting) and types (manifests) can be requested by embedding libraries when needed. Compiler data is then available as literal values in the program. It further describes a metaprogramming framework that combine compiler data available in code with reflection. Its design is mirror-based, and allows a high degree of code sharing between the metaprogramming framework and the compiler.

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