Core OCaml

Let's now upgrade from SimPL and the lambda calculus to a larger language that we call core OCaml. Here is its syntax in BNF:

e ::= x | e1 e2 | fun x -> e     
    | i | b | e1 bop e2                
    | (e1, e2) | fst e | snd e
    | Left e | Right e          
    | match e with Left x1 -> e1 | Right x2 -> e2 
    | if e1 then e2 else e3
    | let x = e1 in e2     

bop ::= + | * | < | =

x ::= <identifiers>

i ::= <integers>

b ::= true | false      

v ::= fun x -> e | i | b | (v1, v2) | Left v | Right v

To keep tuples simple in this core model, we represent them with only two components (i.e., they are pairs). A longer tuple could be coded up with nested pairs. For example, (1,2,3) in OCaml could be (1,(2,3)) in this core language.

Also to keep variant types simple in this core model, we represent them with only two constructors, which we name Left and Right. A variant with more constructors could be coded up with nested applications of those two constructors. Since we have only two constructors, match expressions need only two branches. One caution in reading the BNF above: the occurrence of | in the match expression just before the Right constructor denotes syntax, not metasyntax.

There are a few important OCaml constructs omitted from this core language, including recursive functions, exceptions, mutability, and modules. Types are also missing; core OCaml does not have any type checking. Nonetheless, there is enough in this core language to keep us entertained for quite awhile.

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