Friday, June 26, 2015

On Uniformity of Syntax

One of the core philosophies behind Tuplex is to have a syntax that is as uniform and consistent as possible. This means that any semantic production should have the same syntax regardless of where it is placed. This has the benefits of:
  • Regular grammar - easier to learn, read, and write
  • Orthogonal semantics - helps keep semantic concepts independent and possible to recombine without "exceptions to the rule"
  • Making copy-paste easier - reduces need for editing copied/moved code and the associated risk of bugs

Consider the core language elements of function, type, and value expressions. If these are written the same way regardless of the form of statement they are part of, we've come a long way towards uniformity.

Functions, being one of the most complex constructs both syntactically and semantically, are a good illustration of how well a language achieves uniformity. Examine your favorite language and how many distinct function, method, lambda, and function pointer syntaxes it has...

The following Tuplex program shows how function type declaration, global and local functions, instance methods and lambdas, all have identical syntax, and also are fully interchangeable in assignment, function argument passing, and invocation.

My favorite aspect of this is how instance methods, free functions and lambdas all are handled equivalently and for example can be passed as argument to another function without that function caring about the difference. Closure capturing, when needed, is fully transparent.

type FuncType : ( a : Int )->Int;

square( a : Int )->Int { return a * a; }

## these are equivalent:
aFunction : ( a : Int )->Int = square;
bFunction : FuncType         = square;
cFunction                   := square;

type Multiplier {
    b : Int;

    self( b : Int ) { self.b = b; }

    mul( a : Int )->Int { return a * self.b; }

    higher( f : FuncType )->Int {
        return f( self.b );

main()->Int {
    localFunc := ( a : Int )->Int { return a * 2; };

    value : ~Int = 2;  ## ~Int means mutable 32-bit integer

    ## global function invocation:
    value = square( value ); ## 4

    ## local function assignment and invocation:
    tmpFn : ~FuncType = localFunc;
    value = tmpFn( value );  ## 8

    ## global function assignment and invocation:
    tmpFn = aFunction;
    value = tmpFn( value );  ## 64

    ## instance method assignment and invocation:
    mulObj := Multiplier(2);
    tmpFn = mulObj.mul;
    value = tmpFn( value );  ## 128

    ## higher order function and inline lambda:
    value = value + mulObj.higher( ( a : Int )->Int { return a+1; } );

    return value;  ## process returns 131

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quick Example

A reader might be curious about the syntax. This is a very short example program.

module my

type AType<S> {
    memref : Ref<S>;             ## default is private

    public self( s : Ref<S> ) {  ## constructor
        self.memref = s;

    public getter()->Ref<S> {
   ## Ref<S> can also be written &S
         return self.memref;

main()->Int {

    obj := new AType<Int>( 42 );
    ret := obj.getter();
    return ret;

Spring Progress Update

How should one spend one's time...

I've focused on implementation since january and have regretfully not posted any progress updates. This is what's been done since then:

  • Symbol table rewrite - DONE
  • Central compiler "driver" routine incl options handling - DONE
  • Modules and import handling - DONE
  • Generic (parameterized) types except for reentrant code generation - DONE
  • Proper integer literal type handling, range checking and conversion - DONE
  • Bool type and boolean expressions - DONE
  • Polymorphism (virtual lookup) for static members - DONE
  • Function objects retaining their closure (e.g. 'self') - DONE
  • Preserve type information in references - DONE
  • 'self' implicit method argument - DONE
  • Virtual methods - DONE
  • 'new' operator and heap allocation - DONE
  • Initializers / constructors - DONE
  • super() constructor invocation; super.method() invocation - DONE

My next todos are:

  • Generic type instance fields support
  • Interfaces
  • Checked type casts (with special if statements)

But before that I need to do an important refactoring. Finding a clean way of modeling the grammar nodes, symbols, fields and types becomes rather difficult when name overloading and generic types are part of the mix. I think I've finally found the proper dimension along which to achieve separation of concern / modularization. (And as so often, in retrospect the solution looks rather trivial.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Essential Language Features

Added a static page called Essential Features. It attempts to describe on a single page what characterizes the Tuplex language - it's raison d'ĂȘtre so to speak!

Not all of them will be properly supported in the initial versions, but most are under way.

Currently I'm working with the generics implementation. It has turned out that even for doing a basic thing like a printf-style function, a lot of core semantic and code generation systems are needed.

Consider a simple String type:

public type String<L> derives Array<Char,L> {

  public static func length() UInt { return L }

  public func is_empty() Boolean { return self[0] == 0 }


It's just a handful of lines, but it requires a working version of all these systems, and generics is the one that isn't sufficiently capable yet:
  • Symbol tables and namespaces
  • Arrays
  • Objects
  • Static and non-static (instance) fields and methods
  • Inheritance/polymorphism
  • Generics (parameterized types)

Note btw how the length() method is both static and constant. In Tuplex the length is part of the array type, so it can be statically determined. In fact, type parameters are accessible directly (and why shouldn't they be, the information is there anyway!) so the method can be circumvented entirely:

  mystring := "foo"
  print( mystring.L )
--> 3

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hello World

It's mandatory. This is what a hello world program currently looks like in Tuplex:

main() {
  tx.c.puts("Hello, world!");