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Good craftsmen know their tools, and compilers are amongst the most important tools that programmers use. There are many ways in which familiarity with compilers helps programmers. For example, knowledge of semantic analysis helps programmers understand error messages, and knowledge of code generation techniques helps programmers debug problems at assembly language level. The technologies used in compiler development are also useful when implementing other kinds of programs. The concepts and tools used in the analysis phases of a compiler are useful for any program whose input has a structure that is non-trivial to recognize, while those used in the synthesis phases are useful for any program that generates commands for another system. This subject provides an understanding of the main principles of programming language implementation, as well as first hand experience of the application of those principles.
The subject describes how compilers analyse source programs, how they translate them to target programs, and what tools are available to support these tasks. Topics covered include compiler structures; lexical analysis; syntax analysis; semantic analysis; intermediate representations of programs; code generation; and optimisation.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject the student is expected to:
- Describe important concepts and techniques in programming language implementation
- Exploit their knowledge of compilers to be more effective programmers
- Use analysis tools to help implement programs whose input has a structure that is non-trivial to recognise
- Use synthesis tools to help implement programs that generate commands for other programs
On completion of the subject students should have the following skills:
- Ability to apply knowledge of science and engineering fundamentals
- Ability to undertake problem identification, formulation and solution
- Ability to utilise a systems approach to complex problems and to design for performance
- Ability to manage information and documentation
- Capacity for creativity and innovation
Last updated: 29 April 2020