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Compiler Construction

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Compiler Construction

Course Contents

Compilers translate the source code of programs in a high-level programming language into executable (virtual) machine code. Nowadays, compilers are typically integrated into development environments providing features like syntax highlighting, content assistance, live error reporting, and continuous target code generation. This course is about the efficient construction of compilers and their integration in the IDE. Its lectures are organised in three parts:

The first part focuses on declarative specification of compiler components as supported by state-of-the-art tools for compiler construction, including lexical syntax, context-free syntax, static semantics, and code generation.

In the second part, we address techniques for the compilation of imperative and object-oriented languages, including activation records, memory management, register allocation, and optimisation techniques in detail.

The third part takes a closer look on the inside working of compiler components and their generators. In particular, we study parsing algorithms and parser generation.

In the practical work, students construct a compiler for a small object-oriented language using the tools introduced in the first part of the lectures.

Expected Prior Knowledge

  • programming (required)
  • software engineering (advised)
  • programming languages (advised)

Study Goals

  • to be able to specify a language in a declarative style
  • to be able to construct a compiler from such specifications with state-of-the-art compiler construction tools
  • to understand different language aspects
  • to understand the working of compiler components realising these aspects


  • Andrew W. Appel, Jens Palsberg: Modern Compiler Implementation in Java, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, 2002.


The Git repositories of this course are supported by a discount from GitHub Education.

Early feedback and automated grading of student submissions is supported by an AWS in Education Grant award from Amazon.