Programming Languages

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content


The course gives a practical and theoretical introduction to semantics of programming languages and to a range of important constructs and abstractions used in contemporary languages. The (indirect) goal is that an increased understanding of programming languages translates to higher quality of programs that students write and higher productivity in their programming. The class equips the student with basic skills of designing and implementing small languages, where an implementation consists of a parser, type checker, and an interpreter.

The course seeks to make the student well-prepared to learn new programming languages in the future.


The course covers important language constructs in modern languages. It discusses the specification of the syntax and semantics of programming languages, and introduces the notions of a type system and type safety. Students implement a series of interpreters and type checkers. Reflecting on the influence of the properties of a programming language and its features on software quality is a central theme of the course.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student will be able to:



  • explain the concepts of concrete and abstract syntax of a language, and the concerns of designing syntax that can be parsed effectively; and select parsing tools and approaches according to problem context.
  • explain notations and approaches to defining semantics of programming languages, in particular those of operational semantics.
  • explain the impacts of evaluation order to termination, to efficiency, and the ease or difficulty of reasoning about programs.
  • explain what type safety of a programming language means.
  • explain different variations of polymorphism, and relate them to features of contemporary programming languages.
  • explain the essence of important programming language constructs and concepts, describe their implementation approaches, purpose and productive use in programming, and their manifestations and variations in different mainstream programming languages.



  • define an abstract grammar for a small programming language and implement a parser for it.
  • define an operational semantics for a small language and implement it as an interpreter.
  • define and implement a type system for a small language.


General competence

  • make justified decisions about the use of different programming language constructs in programming.
  • make justified decisions about selecting programming languages for software projects.
  • follow new developments in programming languages.
  • read and understand, to a useful degree, scholarly articles in the area of programming languages.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
For incoming exchange students: At least 60 ECTS in Computer Science and at least 10 ECTS in mathematics
Recommended Previous Knowledge
INF122 or some experience with programming in Haskell or in another functional language.
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Teaching and learning methods
The course has two weekly lectures and a weekly lab session. In addition, the course requires completing homework assignments.
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
The compulsory exercises have to be passed and are then valid for two subsequent semesters, starting from the semester in which they are approved.
Forms of Assessment
Written examination. Both the exam and assignments count towards the total grade. Weights are announced at the beginning of the course.
Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be ar-ranged at the beginning of the semester.
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.
Examination Support Material
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Course Coordinator
Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB, or contact Student adviser
Course Administrator
The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences represented by the Department of Informatics is the course administrator for the course and study programme.