These abstracts are for talks at this event.

NEPLS is a venue for ongoing research, so the abstract and supplemental material associated with each talk is necessarily temporal. The work presented here may be in a state of flux. In all cases, please consult the authors' Web pages for up-to-date information. Please don't refer to these pages as a definitive source.

Growing a Syntax

Eric Allen, Ryan Culpepper, Janus Dam Nielsen, Jon Rafkind, and Sukyoung Ryu (Sun Microsystems)

In this paper we present a macro system for the Fortress
programming language. Fortress is a new programming language
designed for scientific and high-performance
computing. Features include: implicit parallelism,
transactions, and concrete syntax that emulates mathematical

Fortress is intended to grow over time to accommodate the
changing needs of its users. Our goal is to design and
implement a macro system that allows for such growth. The
main challenges are (1) to support extensions to a core
syntax rich enough to emulate mathematical notation, (2) to
support combinations of extensions from separately compiled
macros, and (3) to allow new syntax that is
indistinguishable from core language constructs. To emulate
mathematical notation, Fortress syntax is specified as a
parsing expression grammar (PEG), supporting unlimited
lookahead. Macro definitions must be checked for
well-formedness before they are expanded and macro uses must
be well encapsulated (hygienic, composable, respecting
referential transparency). Use sites must be parsed along
with the rest of the program and expanded directly into
abstract syntax trees. Syntax errors at use sites of a macro
must refer to the unexpanded program at use sites, never to
definition sites. Moreover, to allow for many common and
important uses of macros, mutually recursive definitions
should be supported.

Our design meets these challenges. The result is a flexible
system that allows us not only to support new language
extensions, but also to move many constructs of the core
language into libraries.  New grammar productions are
tightly integrated with the Fortress parser, and use sites
expand into core abstract syntax trees. Our implementation
is integrated into the open-source Fortress reference
interpreter.To our knowledge, ours is the first
implementation of a modular hygienic macro system based on
parsing expression grammars.

Statically-Checked Metaprogramming for Web Applications

Adam Chlipala (Harvard)

Web application programming is perhaps PL researchers'
favorite example of a development domain high in grunt work
and low in tricky algorithmic problems.  The Ur/Web
programming language recognizes this and proposes an
approach to reifying commonalities across web applications,
as modules and values in an ML-influenced language that
imports more avant garde ideas from type theory.

Ur/Web is a domain-specific language whose "well-typed
programs can't go wrong" theorem covers the lifetime of a
web application, rather than just single page generations.
In particular, the type system rules out malformed HTML,
dangling links, illegal generation of SQL queries, illegal
marshaling and unmarshaling to and from SQL databases, and
mismatches between the fields defined in an HTML form and
the fields read by its handler code.

All that is just the foundation on which the platform for
avoiding grunt work is built.  Ur/Web's type system is
inspired by dependent type theory, though dependency is
avoided via stratification. The key benefit that remains is
type-level computation.  Aspects of XML and SQL are
described with the uniform mechanism of row types, and
Ur/Web's type language includes recursive function
definitions over rows.  This makes it possible to write
richly-typed functors and functions that have different
run-time behavior based on row type arguments. For instance,
we have implemented a functor that generates a standard
"admin interface" for an arbitrary SQL table, as a function
of a row type enumerating the table's fields.  An additional
value-level record, whose type is built by recursion on the
incoming row type, provides custom code on a per-field
basis.  The signature of this functor gives complete
information on what clients must provide and what they
receive in return, and the Ur/Web type system guarantees
that the functor can never build web applications with any
of the problems that we enumerated at the end of the last

Project Web Site (with demo).

Choreography & Session Types

Marco Carbone (Queen Mary College, Univ. of London)

Choreography has recently emerged as a pragmatic and concise
way of describing communication-based systems such as
financial and security protocols and web services.  This
discipline focuses on global message flows and offers a
vantage viewpoint of the system being designed.

In this talk I will introduce a model for choreography and
show how global message flows can be mapped into executable
code in a session-based setting. In particular, I will
discuss how three principles of well-structured description
and type structures play a fundamental role in the theory. I
will also briefly introduce different extensions of
choreography such as interactional exceptions and multiparty
session types.

Causal Commutative Arrows

Hai (Paul) Liu and Paul Hudak (Yale)

Arrows are a popular form of abstract computation.  Being
more general than monads, they are more broadly applicable,
and in particular are a good abstraction for signal
processing and dataflow computations.  Most notably, arrows
form the basis for a domain specific language called
*Yampa*, which has been used in a variety of concrete
applications, including animation, robotics, sound
synthesis, control systems, graphical user interfaces, and

Our primary interest is in better understanding the class of
abstract computations captured by Yampa.  Unfortunately,
arrows are not concrete enough to do this with precision.
To remedy this situation we introduce the concept of
*commutative arrows* that capture a kind of non-interference
property of concurrent computations.  We also add an *init*
operator, and identify a crucial law that captures the
causal nature of arrow effects.  We call the resulting
computational model *causal commutative arrows*.

To study this class of computations in more detail, we
define an extension to the simply typed lambda calculus
called *CCA*, and give both its denotational and operational
semantics.  Our key contribution is the identification of a
normal form for CCA called \emph{causal commutative normal
form} (CCNF).  Furthermore, by defining a terminating
normalization procedure we have developed an optimization
strategy that yields substantial improvements in performance
over conventional implementations of arrows.  We have
implemented this technique in Haskell, and conducted
benchmarks that validate the effectiveness of our approach.

Alchemy: Transmuting Base Alloy Specifications into Implementations

Shriram Krishnamurthi (Brown), Dan Dougherty, Kathi Fisler, Daniel Yoo (WPI)

Alloy specifications are used to define lightweight models
of systems. We present Alchemy, which compiles Alloy
specifications into implementations that execute against
persistent databases. Alchemy translates a subset of Alloy
predicates into imperative update operations, and it
converts facts into database integrity constraints that it
maintains automatically in the face of these imperative

In addition to presenting the semantics and an algorithm for
this compilation, we present the tool and outline its
application to a non-trivial specification. We also discuss
lessons learned about the relationship between Alloy
specifications and imperative implementations.

More information is in our paper.

Verifying Garbage Collectors with Boogie and Z3

Chris Hawblitzel (Microsoft) and Erez Petrank (Technion)

Most safe programming languages rely on garbage collection
to remove unreachable objects from memory.  A bug in the
garbage collector could undermine the language.s safety, so
it.s useful to verify that the garbage collector works
correctly.  We describe how we used the Boogie verification
generator and Z3 automated theorem prover to prove the
partial correctness of two practical garbage collectors (one
mark-sweep collector and one copying collector).  In
particular, we discuss how Z3.s support for arithmetic,
arrays, and bit vectors allowed us to reason about the
low-level details of memory layout.  This low level of
detail allowed us to verify not just the GC algorithm, but
also the GC interface to real x86 code compiled from
off-the-shelf C# programs.

Automatic Differentiation of Functional Programs or Lambda the Ultimate Calculus

Jeffrey Mark Siskind (Purdue)

It is extremely useful to be able to take derivatives of
functions expressed as computer programs to support function
optimization and approximation, parameter estimation,
machine learning, and ultimately computational science and
engineering design.  The established discipline of Automatic
Differentiation (AD) has largely focussed on imperative
languages, where it is most efficiently implemented as a
source-to-source transformation performed by a preprocessor.
This talk will present a novel formulation of AD for
functional programs expressed in the lambda calculus.  A key
novel aspect of our formulation is that AD is performed by
higher-order functions that reflectively transform closure
bodies.  Our methods exhibit an important closure property
that prior AD formulations lack: the ability to transform
the entire space of input programs, including those produced
by the AD transformations themselves.  This is crucial for
solving the kinds of nested optimizations that arise in
domains such as game theory and automatic control.
Furthermore, since the input and output of our
transformations is the lambda calculus, efficient
implementation is facilitated by novel extensions of
standard compilation techniques.  We exhibit a novel
"almost" union-free polyvariant flow-analysis algorithm,
formulated as abstract interpretation, that partially
evaluates calls to the AD operators, migrating reflective
source-to-source transformation to compile time.  This
yields code with run-time performance that exceeds the best
existing AD implementations for imperative languages by a
factor of two and outperforms all AD implementations for
functional languages by two to three orders of magnitude.

Joint work with Barak A. Pearlmutter.

Complexity of Flow Analysis

David Van Horn (Northeastern) and Harry Mairson (Brandeis)

Flow analysis aims to predict properties of programs before
they are run, but how hard is this to do?  We answer the
question in the case of the kCFA hierarchy, a ubiquitous
family of flow analyses for higher-order languages, by
deriving tight lower bounds on the computational complexity
of the hierarchy.

For 0CFA, and many of its known approximations, a natural
decision problem answered by analysis is complete for
polynomial time.  This theorem relies on the insight that
linearity of programs subverts approximation in analysis,
rendering analysis equivalent to evaluation.

For any k > 0, we prove the decision problem is complete for
exponential time.  This theorem validates empirical
observations that such control flow analysis is intractable.
It also provides more general insight into the complexity of
abstract interpretation.

Last modified Friday, November 14th, 2008 4:35:58pm