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Declarative debugging for lazy functional languages
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Lazy functional languages are declarative and allow the programmer to write programs where operational issues such as the evaluation order are left implicit. It is desirable to maintain a declarative view also during debugging so as to avoid burdening the programmer with operational details, for example concerning the actual evaluation order which tends to be difficult to follow. Conventional debugging techniques focus on the operational behaviour of a program and thus do not constitute a suitable foundation for a general-purpose debugger for lazy functional languages. Yet, the only readily available, general-purpose debugging tools for this class of languages are simple, operational tracers.

This thesis presents a technique for debugging lazy functional programs declaratively and an efficient implementation of a declarative debugger for a large subset of Haskell. As far as we know, this is the first implementation of such a debugger which is sufficiently efficient to be useful in practice. Our approach is to construct a declarative trace which hides the operational details, and then use this as the input to a declarative (in our case algorithmic) debugger.

The main contributions of this thesis are:

  • A basis for declarative debugging of lazy functional programs is developed in the form of a trace which hides operational details. We call this kind of trace the Evaluation Dependence Tree (EDT).
  • We show how to construct EDTs efficiently in the context of implementations of lazy functional languages based on graph reduction. Our implementation shows that the time penalty for tracing is modest, and that the space cost can be kept below a user definable limit by storing one portion of the EDT at a time.
  • Techniques for reducing the size of the EDT are developed based on declaring modules to be trusted and designating certain functions as starting-points for tracing.
  • We show how to support source-level debugging within our framework. A large subset of Haskell is handled, including list comprehensions.
  • Language implementations are discussed from a debugging perspective, in particular what kind of support a debugger needs from the compiler and the run-time system.
  • We present a working reference implementation consisting of a compiler for a large subset of Haskell and an algorithmic debugger. The compiler generates fairly good code, also when a program is compiled for debugging, and the resource consumption during debugging is modest. The system thus demonstrates the feasibility of our approach. 
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 1998. , 243 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 530
National Category
Computer Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-36118Local ID: 29995ISBN: 91-7219-197-XOAI: diva2:256966
Public defence
1998-05-20, Seminarierum Planck, Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, 14:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2013-01-14

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Nilsson, Henrik
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