Concrete syntax for objects: domain-specific language embedding and assimilation without restrictions

Martin Bravenboer, Eelco Visser. Concrete syntax for objects: domain-specific language embedding and assimilation without restrictions. In John M. Vlissides, Douglas C. Schmidt, editors, Proceedings of the 19th Annual ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications, OOPSLA 2004. pages 365-383, ACM, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2004. [doi]

Abstract

Application programmer's interfaces give access to domain knowledge encapsulated in class libraries without providing the appropriate notation for expressing domain composition. Since object-oriented languages are designed for extensibility and reuse, the language constructs are often sufficient for expressing domain abstractions at the semantic level. However, they do not provide the right abstractions at the syntactic level. In this paper we describe MetaBorg, a method for providing concrete syntax for domain abstractions to application programmers. The method consists of embedding domain-specific languages in a general purpose host language and assimilating the embedded domain code into the surrounding host code. Instead of extending the implementation of the host language, the assimilation phase implements domain abstractions in terms of existing APIs leaving the host language undisturbed. Indeed, MetaBorg can be considered a method for promoting APIs to the language level. The method is supported by proven and available technology, i.e. the syntax definition formalism SDF and the program transformation language and toolset Stratego/XT. We illustrate the method with applications in three domains: code generation, XML generation, and user-interface construction.