PLAI - Chapter I

Yesterday I’ve begun reading Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation (abbreviated PLAI), written by Shriram Krishnamurthi. The book is available for free in PDF format.

The main reason for starting it is because I’ve noticed, about a year ago, that I have a passion for programming languages. I like to learn new programming languages, programming concepts or ways to make such languages more expressive. The final goal would be to implement myself a programming language. This goal, however, is not set for the near future. First of all, I want to work hard in the trenches with multiple languages, and learn as much as I can about languages that have gone away, or maybe that have influenced other ones. In order to invent, I need an inventory.

For the next month or so, I plan to read the above book. It is used as a text book at Brown University, and seemingly in some other universities. The thing that got me about it is the titles of the chapters. I’ve heard about most of those concepts in my short experience with several languages, and maybe even worked with several of them, but I certainly want to know more about them (like ways of implementing them, advantages and disadvantages). Things like laziness, recursion, (immutable) state, continuations, type inference and metaprogramming are guaranteed to give me thrills at this point in my life. They may sound like buzzwords, and they may actually be in this moment of functional programming resurrection, but… as I have little knowledge about them (that means, I can’t yet explain them that well to you, I only have instinctive understanding) it seems normal to attract me so much.

Yesterday I’ve read the first chapter, the Prelude, which is basically an introduction to programming language modelling and some theory about parsers.

The main thing that should be retained from this chapter would be that each programming language (I’d say programming platform though, because of the libraries part) consists of four categories:

Also, as a note for those interested in reading the book themselves. I’m using DrRacket to work through the examples, but the syntax isn’t standard Scheme, so I had to choose the “Pretty Big” language.

Now, I’m going to start reading the next chapter: Rudimentary Interpreters.