15-312 Principles of Programming Languages

Course Information


Lectures: Tue-Thu 13:30-14:50 GHC 4307 Robert Harper
Section A: Wed 11:30-12:20 WeH 5302 Cyrus Omar
Section B: Wed 12:30-13:20 WeH 5302 Shayak Sen
Midterm Exam: Thu Mar 7 13:30 GHC 4307 In class, open book
Final Exam: Fri May 10, 2013 8:30 DH A302 Three hours, open book

Course Staff and Office Hours

Instructor: Robert Harper 9207 GHC Thursday 16:30-17:30
Secretary: Kathy McNiff 9213 GHC
TA: Cyrus Omar 9003 GHC Sunday 19:30-20:30, Monday 20:30-21:30
TA: Shayak Sen 6507 GHC Monday 19:30-20:30, Thursday 17:30-18:30
Note that all office hours after 6pm are held in 4122 GHC.


Wordle: Principles of Programming Languages

This course introduces the fundamental principles of programming language design, semantics, and implementation. For more information on the course philosophy, read Why Study Programming Languages?.

Lecture and Recitation

Please see the schedule of lectures for the lecture topics and links to the references and notes. The schedule is subject to change during the course of the semester.

Lecture is your primary source of information in this course, with recitation serving to amplify and reinforce the main concepts in the course. The course notes and texts are supplementary to lecture, rather than the primary sources of information. You are strongly urged to attend lecture and recitation every week, and are in any case responsible for the material presented therein.

Recitations are held weekly on Wednesdays. Attendance at recitation will be recorded, and, from time to time, quizzes with recorded grades may be given in recitation. See Grading for how recitation counts towards your grade.


Please see the homework assignments page for more information on submitting homework and for the current assignments.

Homework will account for 50% of your grade in this course.



There will be a 1.5-hour, in-class, open-book midterm examination on March 7, 2012 that will account for 20% of your grade. The solutions are available now.


There will be a three-hour, open-book final examination on Friday May 10, 2013 at 8:30AM in DH A302 that will account for 30% of your grade. A practice exam can be viewed here.


Homework will account for 50% of your grade, the midterm 20%, and the final 30%. Your final letter grade will be determined in part based on your performance relative to the rest of the class, though we have no pre-determined distribution in mind. We will also consider extra credit on the assignments and participation in recitation and lecture when determining final grades. Extra credit and participation do not count towards your numeric average, but, for example, they might cause a student on the border to receive an A instead of a B (or vice versa!).



Robert Harper, Practical Foundations for Programming Languages . Cambridge University Press, 2013.


Benjamin C. Pierce, Types and Programming Languages , MIT Press, 2002.


The programming language for this course is Standard ML, using the Standard ML of New Jersey (SML/NJ) implementation.

Please see course software for further information on programming with Standard ML.

Some useful LaTeX style files and samples may be found in the tex directory.


Post all questions for the teaching staff on the 15-312 Discussion Group on Piazza. Questions may be posted to the teaching staff only, or publically so that the entire class may see them. In most cases it is best to post publically, since then everyone can benefit from the discussion that follows. However, it is not appropriate to post solutions to homework problems publically, for the obvious reasons, so if your question is about your own solution, please post privately to the teaching staff only.

Where to go for help

The Discussion Group is the first place to look for answers to your questions, and to post questions of your own. Piazza allows questions to be posted to the instructors only, if you wish, but you may also post a question publicly so that everyone can see it, and see the answers that are posted.

The second place to look for help is in your recitation section. One purpose of recitation is to clarify the course material presented in lecture and in readings. You should attend your section regularly, and feel free to ask questions!

The third place to look for help is to visit your teaching assistant or the professor during office hours. The course staff are available during these times to help you with homework and answer any questions you may have about the course material.

If all else fails, then you may make a private appointment with either the TA's or the professor simply by sending email and suggesting times to meet.

Academic Integrity

As a condition for taking this course, you are responsible for compliance with the University Policy on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.

In this course, you are authorized to use the books and notes linked from this Web site, as well as any other sources specifically allowed by the course staff. Any other source is unauthorized.

You are allowed to discuss homework assignments with other students. However, in order to ensure that the work you submit is still your own, we insist that you adhere to a whiteboard policy regarding these discussions: you are not allowed to take any notes, files, or other records away from the discussion. For example, you may work on the homework at the whiteboard with another student, but then you must erase the whiteboard, go home, and write up your solution individually. We take your ability to recreate the solution independently as proof that you understand the work that you submit.

This policy is our attempt to balance the tension between the benefits of group work and the benefits of individual work. We ask that you obey the spirit of the policy, as well as the letter: ensure that all work you submit is your own and that you fully understand the solution. This is in your best interest: the exams constitute a significant part of your final grade, they will be timed, and they will draw heavily on the terminology, concepts, and techniques that are exercised in in the homework. It is unlikely that you will be able to do well on the exams if you do not take full advantage of the learning opportunity afforded by the homework assignments.

No Recording Permitted

No student may record or tape any classroom activity without the express written consent of Prof. Robert Harper. If a student believes that he/she is disabled and needs to record or tape classroom activities, he/she should contact the Office of Disability Resources to request an appropriate accommodation.

Robert Harper
Last modified: Fri Apr 12 22:51:25 EDT 2013

Valid XHTML 1.0!