Programming Language Pragmatics Course Syllabus and Policies

Learning Objectives

The learning goals describe what we want students to know or be able to do by the end of the semester. We evaluate whether learning goals have been achieved through assignments, in-class discussion and exercises, exams, and the final project. After completing the course, students should be able to:


15-150 and (15-251 or 21-228)

Computer Science and Software Engineering Requirements Fulfilled

This course can be used to satisfy the Logic and Languages constrained elective category of the Computer Science Bachelor's Degree.


The final course grade will be calculated using the following categories and percentages:

Assignments are a mixture of formal definitions and proofs covering programming language theory, and programming assignments that build up to a compiler. Both forms of assignments will be assessed based on correctness and clarity of the definitions and of the compiler implementation, respectively.

Two exams will be given in-class, covering the first and second half of the course material, respectively. They will be closed-book. Each exam will be designed so that a well-prepared student can complete it within the 80-minute class period.

The final project will be a student-selected extension to the program semantics or compiler used in class. It will be assessed similarly to theory or programming assignments, depending on the nature of the project.

Class participation is important, as most material reinforced with in-class activities. In most class periods there will be an in-class exercise designed to allow students to practice the material being taught. Students will earn one participation point for completing each day's in-class exercise (regardless of the answers given). When there is no in-class exercise, participation will be assessed via a sign-in sheet. Students can miss up to 2 days of class or recitation without losing any participation credit.

We anticipate that letter grades will be assigned based on the following percentages:

The instructor reserves the right to adjust these percentages downward if, in his view, the revision would better reflect student mastery of the learning goals in the class.


The primary reference for this course is Programming Language Pragmatics, Fourth Edition by Michael L. Scott. It will be supplemented by notes prepared for the upcoming Fifth Edition of the text, written by Aldrich and Scott.

Time Management

This is a 12-unit course, and it is our intention to manage it so that you spend close to 12 hours a week on the course, on average. In general, 4 hours/week will be spent in class and 8 hours on assignments. Please feel free to give the course staff feedback on how much time the course is taking for you.

Late Work Policy

We understand that normal life events, including projects and exams in other courses and technical difficulties out of your control, can interfere with your ability to complete your work on time. Our philosophy is that our late work policy includes built-in flexibility but that the policy will be uniformly applied to all students in all circumstances. Exceptions to this policy will be made only in extraordinary circumstances, almost always involving a family or medical emergency with your academic advisor or the Dean of Student Affairs requesting the exception on your behalf.

For most homework deadlines you may turn in your work up to five days late using (1) free late days (see below) or (2) 10% per day penalties. Work turned in more than five days late will receive feedback but no credit, i.e., a 100% penalty.

Each student starts the semester with five free late days which will automatically be applied to your assignments until you have used all five free late days. A late day is automatically applied when your work is late; you may not defer a free late day to be used on a later assignment.

Collaboration Policy

We expect that your work on assignments, projects, and exams will be your own work. Thus, you may not copy any part of a solution to a problem that was written by another student, or was developed together with another student, or was copied from another unauthorized source such as the Internet. You may not look at another student's solution, even if you have completed your own, nor may you knowingly give your solution to another student or leave your solution where another student can see it.

Here are some examples of behavior that are inappropriate:

If any of your work contains any statement that was not written by you, you must put it in quotes and cite the source. If you are paraphrasing an idea you read elsewhere, you must acknowledge the source. Using existing material without proper citation is plagiarism, a form of cheating. If there is any question about whether the material is permitted, you must get permission in advance. We will be using automated systems to detect software plagiarism.

It is not considered cheating to clarify vague points in the assignments, lectures, lecture notes, or to give help or receive help in using the computer systems, compilers, debuggers, profilers, or other facilities.

Some assignments are specifically noted as group projects. For these, interpret "you" in the preceeding paragraphs to mean "you and your partner(s)."

Any violation of this policy is cheating. The minimum penalty for cheating (including plagiarism) will be a zero grade for the whole assignment. Cheating incidents will also be reported through University channels, with possible additional disciplinary action. For more information, see the University Policy on Academic Integrity. There is no statute of limitations for violations of the collaboration policy; penalties may be assessed (and referred to the university disciplinary board) after you have completed the course, and some requirements of the collaboration policy (such as restrictions on you posting your solutions) extend beyond your completion of the course.

If you have any question about how this policy applies in a particular situation, ask the instructors or TAs for clarification.

Electronics Policy

Educational research indicates that the use of electronic devices in typical classroom situations detracts from learning. Thus, to enhance your learning and that of others in the class, and to encourage active class participation, we generally do not allow the use of electronic devices during lectures. If you have a working style that relies on electronic devices, or need to use them for some other reason, please talk with the instructors.

Many of the recitation exercises rely on laptops, so we encourage students to bring their laptops to recitation section.


If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact Catherine Getchell, Director of Disability Resources, 412-268-6121, If you have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, I encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate.

Your health matters

When we say "your health matters" we mean exactly that: Your health matters. We don't intend to imply that other peoples' health does not matter, or that your health matters more or less than theirs. It's just that we know that CMU can be a stressful, risky environment, and your health is the health that is relevant in this conversation.

Please take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.