An In-Depth Look at ALIA4J

By: Christoph Bockisch, Andreas Sewe, Haihan Yin, Mira Mezini, Mehmet Aksit


New programming languages supporting advanced modularization mechanisms are often implemented as transformations to the imperative intermediate representation of an already established language. But while their core constructs largely overlap in semantics, re-using the corresponding transformations requires re-using their syntax as well; this is limiting. In the ALIA4J approach, we identified \emph{dispatching} as fundamental to most modularization mechanisms and provide a meta-model of dispatching as a rich, extensible intermediate language. Based on this meta-model, one can modularly implement the semantics of dispatching-related constructs. From said constructs a single execution model can then be derived which facilitates interpretation, bytecode generation, and even optimized machine-code generation. We show the suitability of our approach by mapping five popular languages to this meta-model and find that most of their constructs are shared across multiple languages. We furthermore present implementations of the three different execution strategies together with a generic visual debugger available to any ALIA4J-based language implementation. Intertwined with this paper is a tutorial-style running example that illustrates our approach.


Dispatching mechanisms, multiple dispatching, predicate dispatching, pointcut-advice, advanced dispatching, modular language implementation, virtual machines, just-in-time compilation, debugging

Cite as:

Christoph Bockisch, Andreas Sewe, Haihan Yin, Mira Mezini, Mehmet Aksit, “An In-Depth Look at ALIA4J”, Journal of Object Technology, Volume 11, no. 1 (April 2012), pp. 7:1-28, doi:10.5381/jot.2012.11.1.a7.

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The JOT Journal   |   ISSN 1660-1769   |   DOI 10.5381/jot   |   AITO   |   Open Access   |    Contact