University of Minnesota
Software Engineering Center

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Minnesota Extensible Language Tools

Software development is a time-consuming and error-prone process that often results in unreliable and insecure software. At least part of the reason for these undesirable results is that large semantic gap between the programmer's high-level understanding of the problem and the relatively low-level programming language in which the problem solutions are encoded. Thus, programmers cannot "say what they mean" but must encode their ideas as programming idioms at a lower level of abstraction. This wastes time and is the source of many errors. A long range goal is to improve the software development process and the quality of the resulting software artifacts by reducing the semantic gap. Extensible languages provide a promising way to achieve this goal. An extensible language can easily be extended with the unique combination of domain-specific language features that raises the level of abstraction to that of the task at hand. The extended language provides the programmer with language constructs, optimizations, and static program analyses to significantly simplify the software development process.

Recent Publications

Attribute Grammar-based Language Extensions for Java

This paper describes the Java Language Extender framework, a tool that allows one to create new domain-adapted languages by importing domain-specific language extensions into an extensible implementation of Java 1.4. Language extensions may define the syntax, semantic analysis, and optimizations of new language constructs. Java and the language extensions are specified as higher-order attribute grammars. We describe several language extensions and their implementation in the framework.

Extending Lustre with Timeout Automata

This paper describes an extension to Lustre to support the analysis of globally asynchronous, locally synchronous (GALS) architectures. This extension consists of constructs for directly specifying the timeout automata used to describe asynchronous communication between processes represented by Lustre nodes. It is implemented using an extensible language framework based on attribute grammars that allows such extensions to be modularly defined so that they may be more easily composed with other language extensions.

Silver: an Extensible Attribute Grammar System

Attribute grammar specification languages, like many domain specific languages, offer significant advantages to their users, such as high-level declarative constructs and domain-specific analyses. Despite these advantages, attribute grammars are often not adopted to the degree that their proponents envision. One practical obstacle to their adoption is a perceived lack of the both domain-specific and general purpose language features needed to address all of the different aspects of a problem.