McMaster University
Principles of Programming Languages

Comp Sci 3MI3, Term 1 2023/24


Term 1: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 14:40-15:20, (see Mosaic for location).


All are in ITB 139.

  1. Th 1:30
  2. Tu 12:30
  3. Fr 10:30
  4. Mo 11:30
There will be no tutorials the first week of class.


Dr. J. Carette, ITB-168 , email:

I can be reached most easily via the class Discord (see Avenue for details), email, or right after class. Please make an appointment to see me if you have questions that would be inappropriate to post on Discord.

Teaching Assistants

Jason Balaci (balacij), Reed Mullanix (mullanir), Zizeng Li (li124) and Akram Hannoufa (hannoufa)

Course Objectives

The calendar description says: Design space of programming languages; abstraction and modularization concepts and mechanisms; programming in non-procedural (functional and logic) paradigms; introduction to programming language semantics.

There will be no official textbook. Various online materials will be linked to at the appropriate time.

Informally, the idea of the course:


All the material from 2C03, 2LC3/2DM3, 2AC3/2FE3 and 2ME3 will be assumed, as well as a certain 'programming maturity'. The material from 2LC3/2DM3 will be the parts we will use most directly, as can be seen from the explicit list below.
  1. Students should know and understand:
    1. Basic concepts about integers, sets, functions, & relations.
    2. Induction and recursion.
    3. First order logic, axiomatic theories & simple proof techniques.
    4. Regular expressions & context-free grammars.
    5. Programming in imperative languages.
    6. Basic concepts of functional programming languages (Haskell)
  2. Students should be able to
    1. Produce proofs involving quantifiers and/or induction.
    2. Understand the meaning of a given axiomatic theory.
    3. Construct regular sets & context-free languages.
    4. Produce small to medium scale programs in imperative languages.
    5. Produce small scale programs in functional languages.

Learning Objectives

  1. Students should know and understand
    1. Programming in functional languages.
    2. Programming in logical languages.
    3. Formal definitions of syntax & semantics for various simple programming languages.
    4. Various abstraction & modularisation techniques employed in programming languages.
  2. Students should be able to
    1. Reason about the design space of programming languages, in particular tradeoffs & design issues.
    2. Produce formal descriptions of syntax & semantics from informal descriptions, identifying ambiguities.
    3. Select appropriate abstraction & modularisation techniques for a given problem.
    4. Produce tools for domain-specific languages in imperative, functional and logical languages.

Note that not all objectives will be measured for marks.

Graduate Attributes

Some of the graduate attributes below will be measured (probably most), in some fashion. These are measurements for the purposes of understanding your overall state in terms of the attributes which the CEAB deems important for engineers (and will be done even though you are in CS). Some will be measured through assignments, presentations and deliverables (and worth marks), while others will be done via other means not directly tied to course marks.

Electronic Materials

The latest version of this outline and the most "up-to date" information as well as hand-outs can be found on the course web page. (Or go to my home page and then to the course page). Avenue will be used for handing in assignments. Discord will be used for further coordination.


Assignments: 20% Midterm: 30% Final: 50% . Specifically, there will be 5 assignments where the best 4 will count towards the final grade in the course.

There will be (significant) bonus parts on the assignments. All bonus marks count.

Marking schemes will be strict: code that does not compile will be usually be worth zero marks for the 'code' part. You are better off submitting a partial implementation that compiles or a commented out implementation with explanations of your intent.

Each assignment will have a rubric with more details on how it will be graded. If grades need to be adjusted, most commonly the denominator will be reduced, i.e. some questions will be made 'bonus'.

MSAF on assignments will always be a 4 day extension from the original due date regardless of when it is submitted. MSAFs on midterms will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Late assignments are not accepted (without an MSAF).


Schedule Changes

At certain points in the course it may make good sense to modify the schedule. The instructor may modify elements of the course and will notify students accordingly (using the standard communication mechanisms used for the class).


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The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:


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September 2023