CSCI 312: Programming Language Design (W22)

CSCI 312: Programming Language Design

General Information


Professor: Simon D. Levy


Lecture: TR 11:45am-1:15pm  Parmly 405

Office Hours: MWF 2:00-4:00pm and by appointment. Zoom meetings are the preferred way to meet for office hours, but I am happy to meet in person given enough notice.

Textbook: Miran Lipovača, Learn You a Haskell for Great Good.  If that link isn’t working, you can read a free online copy of the book from the W&L library or  purchase your own copy.


By the end of the course you will be able to

    • Write nontrivial programs in Haskell
    • Design your own programming languages and build interpreters for them.
    • Deal with intermittent failure and frustration as unavoidable waypoints on the path to success.

In the process of learning these very practical skills, you will gain familiarity with the some of the most beautiful and elegant ideas in computer science, with profound connections to many other disciplines.


Although I have taught this course many times, this is the first time that I have taught it using Haskell.  For that reason we will borrow heavily from the content of a similar Haskell-based course at Pomona College.


The written work for the course will consist of

    • Homework assignments, done with your lab partner (both of you turn it in to your github repository by 11:59pm on the due date): 50% of grade
    • Two one-hour exams,  15% each = 30% of grade
    • Comprehensive final exam: 20% of grade

Because of the rapid pace of the course, I will not accept late work without prior notice from the Dean’s Office.


Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Office of the Dean of the College. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the (fall or winter) term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking should be arranged with the professor at least a week before the date of the test or exam.

Final Exam Policy

The final exam for this course will be given during the final exam week. You can take this exam during any of the regularly scheduled exam periods that week. You must supply an exam envelope to the instructor or the department administrative assistant no later than noon on the last day of class. You must specify a provisional day and time on the envelope, which you are free to change on the clipboard provided outside the door of Parmly 407 any time that week. Email or phone requests to reschedule will not be accepted.

The exam will be given in Parmly 405, and you should arrive promptly before the appointed time. If you are more than 15 minutes late, you will have to reschedule your exam. If you are more than 15 minutes late to the last exam period on Friday afternoon, you will receive a grade of 0 on your exam.

Students who have approved academic accommodations must make arrangements to use those accommodations directly with the instructor no later than the last day of class. Students approved for extra time will receive that time at the tail end of the morning exam period or before the beginning of the afternoon exam period (for example, ending at 1:30 PM for a morning exam or beginning at 12:30 PM for an afternoon exam). Students approved for a low-distraction testing location should reserve that space during the last week of classes (following instructions distributed by the Dean’s Office.

Honor System

Unless stated otherwise, the exams will be done without books or notes and without assistance from other people.  For the programming assignments you should feel free to discuss approaches with other students, as long as you are not sharing or copying code.

Tentative Schedule

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
10 Jan
Week 1
Introduction to PLs;
PLs vs. Natural Languages

Exercise: Setting up Haskell

Reading: Chapters 1, 2 

Lecture: PL History

Exercise: Haskell Warmup


Reading: Chapter 3

17 Jan
Week 2

Reading: Chapter 4

  Reading: Chapter 5  
24 Jan
Week 3



Reading: Chapter 6

Due: Assignment 1


Reading: Chapter 6

31 Jan
Week 4

Discussion: Abstract Syntax Trees

Review for Exam #1

  In-class Exam #1  
07 Feb
Week 5

Due: Assignment 2


Discuss Exam #1


Reading: Chapter 7

  Reading: Chapter 8  
14 Feb
Week 6

Reading: Chapter 8

Discussion: Parsing with Difference Lists

  Reading: Chapter 8  
28 Feb
Week 7


Due: Assignment 3


Reading: Chapter 11   Reading: Chapter 11  
07 Mar
Week 8

Reading: Chapter 11

Review for Exam #2

  In-class Exam #2  
14 Mar
Week 9

Due: Assignment 4


Discuss Exam #2  

Finish Chapter 11 

Begin Assignment 5


21 Mar
Week 10

Chapter 11/12: Monoids 



Chapter 11/12: Monoids 


28 Mar
Week 11
  Chapter 12/13: Monads



Guest Lecture by Dr. Geoffrey Matthews

Due: Assignment 5


04 Apr
Week 12
Chapter 12/13: Monads
  Review for final exam  
11 Apr Finals Week        

Due: Assignment 6