1. If I am correct, programming language theory studies

    • syntax and semantics of programming languages, and
    • design and implementation of programming languages (e.g. compiler, ...)
  2. Does programming in programming languages, i.e. creating programs in programming languages, belong to programming language theory?

  3. Does program analysis (correctness and performance of programs) belong to programming language theory? My thought is:

    • semantics of a programming language is used for verifying correctness of programs in the language, so it seems like the answer is yes, although I am not sure if analysis of programs' performance belongs to programming language theory.

    • program analysis also seems to belong to software engineering, which makes me feel perhaps it doesn't belong to programming language theory.



1 Answer 1


"Programming language theory" more or less includes everything you have listed, but of course there is overlap with other areas, such as software engineering, algorithms, security, human-computer interaction, and good old mathematics.

For instance, if you look at last year's programme of the Principles of Programming Languages (POPL) conference you will see not only topics about design, implementation and semantics of programming languages, but also about security, program analysis, papers about resource complexity, and many others.

In general I would say it good to be open about what "belongs" to a "research area". It is a shame to miss opportunities for new discoveries because of narrow-mindedness.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I want to clarify that "belong to" means belonging relation by nature, not by hyped trend in research or industry. I support what you said that research and industry should be open minded, but my question is about the nature of the fields/theories. So I am expecting replies on discussing the natures of the things mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Oct 12, 2015 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ I would say that the things you talk about naturally are related to programming language theory. Take security for instance: obviously programming language design can help with security. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2015 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. my question is not just "related" but "belong" $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Oct 12, 2015 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you're splitting hairs and asking for subjective opinion. Also, things change with time, I am sure in the 1970's few people thought that programming language theory had anything to do with security. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 13:32

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