Polymorphic embedding of DSLs

Christian Hofer, Klaus Ostermann, Tillmann Rendel, Adriaan Moors. Polymorphic embedding of DSLs. In Yannis Smaragdakis, Jeremy G. Siek, editors, Generative Programming and Component Engineering, 7th International Conference, GPCE 2008, Nashville, TN, USA, October 19-23, 2008, Proceedings. pages 137-148, ACM, 2008. [doi]


The influential pure embedding methodology of embedding domain-specific languages (DSLs) as libraries into a general-purpose host language forces the DSL designer to commit to a single semantics. This precludes the subsequent addition of compilation, optimization or domain-specific analyses. We propose polymorphic embedding of DSLs, where many different interpretations of a DSL can be provided as reusable components, and show how polymorphic embedding can be realized in the programming language Scala. With polymorphic embedding, the static type-safety, modularity, composability and rapid prototyping of pure embedding are reconciled with the flexibility attainable by external toolchains.