Skip to main content

MLang tutorial

MLang is a superset of MExpr, and is used to define and compose reusable language fragments. It also supports top-level definitions and simple file inclusion. The definitions can be translated into pure MExpr definitions, and can be run as any other MExpr programs.

Top-Level Definitions and Includes

Values, types, and data constructors can be defined top-level, before the mexpr keyword of an MCore program. The syntax is identical to that of the corresponding MExpr definitions, without the trailing in:

let id = lam x. x
type T
con Foo : Int -> T


utest id (Foo 42) with Foo 42 in

The translation into MExpr is straightforward: the definitions are simply moved into the beginning of the mexpr program. The usefulness of top-level definitions becomes more apparent when adding included files. A file can be included using the syntax

include "path/to/"

before any top-level definitions in a file. The string is a file path relative to the file that contains the include. To refer to files from other libraries, the path can be prefixed with a namespace using the syntax

include ""

The environment variable MCORE_LIBS specifies the location associated with each namespace as a colon-separated list of name=path pairs. For instance, with MCORE_LIBS=mylib=/path/to/mylib, the snippet above would include the file /path/to/mylib/ The standard library namespace stdlib is used as a fallback path to search from if no namespace is given and the file is not found relative to the original file. Files are included transitively in a depth-first fashion, and files that are included from several files are only included once. File inclusions that form a loop are not allowed.

Including a file is equivalent to inserting all the top-level definitions of that file. There are no namespaces and no disambiguation; if a name defined in an included file is shadowed in the including file, the included definition becomes unavailable.

Language Fragments

A language fragment contains definitions of (abstract) syntax, and semantics ("interpreters") for that fragment. Any number of language fragments can be defined before the mexpr keyword in an MCore program. For example, here is a language fragment for simple arithmetics:

lang Arith
syn Expr =
| Num Int
| Add (Expr, Expr)

sem eval =
| Num n -> Num n
| Add (e1,e2) ->
match eval e1 with Num n1 then
match eval e2 with Num n2 then
Num (addi n1 n2)
else error "Not a number"
else error "Not a number"

The fragment defines a syntactic form with two cases called Expr, and an interpreter called eval. An interpreter in MLang is a function that is always defined by cases over its last argument (here, eval takes only a single argument). The body of a case is a regular MExpr term, which has access to the name of the value (if any) carried by the current syntactic form.

In the main MExpr program, a language fragment can be opened by a use expression:

use Arith in
utest eval (Add (Num 2, Num 3)) with Num 5 in

A use is translated into a series of MExpr definitions that match the syntax and semantics of the specified language fragment.

An important feature of language fragments is that they can be composed to form new language fragments. As an example, we might want to extend our arithmetics language with booleans and if expressions:

lang MyBool
syn Expr =
| True()
| False()
| If (Expr, Expr, Expr)

sem eval =
| True() -> True()
| False() -> False()
| If(cnd,thn,els) ->
let cndVal = eval cnd in
match cndVal with True() then eval thn
else match cndVal with False() then eval els
else error "Not a boolean"

lang ArithBool = Arith + MyBool end

use ArithBool in
utest eval (Add (If (False(), Num 0, Num 5), Num 2)) with Num 7 in

The language fragment ArithBool is indistinguishable from a language fragment with all the syntactic and semantic cases of Arith and MyBool merged. If we wanted, we could have added new cases to the language composition as well, and refer to the syntax and semantics of the fragments being composed:

lang ArithBool = Arith + MyBool
syn Expr =
| IsZero Expr

sem eval =
| IsZero e ->
match eval e with Num n then
if eqi n 0 then True() else False()
error "Not a number"