CS 3520/6520: Programming Languages
Fall 2021   MW 1:25-2:45   WEB L101 GC 1900
Matthew Flatt (mflatt@cs.utah.edu), Instructor
Matthew Hooper, TA
Alec Mills, TA
Marisa Kirisame, TA
For help, reach all TAs and instructor at help-cs3520@lists.utah.edu
Canvas Page


Learn programming ideas that will help you understand programming languages and become a better programmer. Write interpreters using Plait, which is a dialect of Racket. Watch lecture videos online.

Although CS 3500 is the only course prerequiste for undergraduates, students should have significant programming practice beyond CS 3500 before taking this course.

Why Programming Languages?

This course presents a set of ideas about programming. Most of the ideas count as general programming language concepts; they are such good ideas about programming that they are baked into practically all modern programming languages. Other ideas presented in the course count as functional programming, because they have been emphasized in a certain family languages—althoughs that distinction grows less relevant as programming languages evolve, since good ideas about programming tend to get absorbed into general programming languages and practice.

The course presents those ideas primarily by having you implement interpreters, although you will also implement some type checkers and compilers. Those kinds of programs are particularly well suited to functional programming techniques, which is why the course gives you practice writing functional programs. At the same time, the process of implementing a programming-language construct as part of an interpreter provides a deeper understanding of the concept than merely using the construct in a few programs.

The ideas presented in the course will help students more easily recognize the capabilities of current and future programming languages. The ideas should also help students become better programmers in general. The goal is of the course is not to prepare students to implement new programming languages, although the concepts of the course are certainly a prerequisite for any student who has that goal.

Students taking the course should have significant programming experience already, but no previous experience with functional programming is required; the course will teach those concepts. We will implement interpreters in the Plait language, which is a dialect of Racket. Naturally, no experience with Plait or Racket is assumed.

All lectures for the course are presented online in video form. In (virtual) class, students will present homework solutions and/or work through homework-like problems as a group.

For a detailed list of topics covered by the course, see the schedule for Fall 2020.

Reference Book

No textbook is required, but the course content is derived from the following book:

 Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation, Second Edition
Shriram Krishnamurthi
 Also available as PDF

As an extra resource, you may want to consult the first edition.

Course Schedule and Homework

Canvas Page

The course Canvas page contains a tentative schedule in the modules listsing, which will be revised throughout the semester. Video lectures, slides, and programs, and solutions to in-class exercises for each lecture will be posted there.

Homework assignments are also posted in Canvas. Homework is typically assigned weekly, and it is usually due the following week, but there will be exceptions. Homework grades and solutions are accessible from the handin-status server.

Programming Environment

We'll use the DrRacket programming environment, version 8.2 or later.



Last update: Saturday, August 21st, 2021