Language and Architecture Paradigms
as Object Classes:
A Unified Approach Towards
Diomidis Spinellis, Sophia Drossopoulou and Susan Eisenbach
Department of Computing
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
London SW7 2BZ, UK
Computer language paradigms offer linguistic abstractions and
proof theories for expressing program implementations.
Similarly, system architectures offer the hardware abstractions and
quantitative theories applicable to the execution of
Although the two entities are usually treated independently,
object-oriented technology can be used to obtain a unifying framework.
Specifically, inheritance can be used to model both programming
languages as extensions to the assembly language executed by
the target architecture, and system architectures as the root class
of those paradigms.
We describe how these principles can be used to model,
structure and implement real multiparadigm
systems in a portable and extendable way.
Computer language paradigms offer linguistic abstractions and
proof theories for expressing program implementations.
Similarly, system architectures offer the hardware abstractions and
quantitative theories applicable to the execution of
It is widely accepted that each paradigm offers a different set of
tradeoffs between efficiency, provability, elision, and implementation
Thus, in the context of programming languages many believe
that the functional programming paradigm is suited for
applying formal proof theories on programs implemented
in it, the logic programming
paradigm is suited for expressing rule-based systems, and that
efficient implementations are best expressed using the imperative
In the area of system architectures the imperative paradigm
maps particularly well on the sequential von-Neumann architecture,
while the referential transparency of the pure functional and logic
languages can be advantageously used by parallel architectures.
Our research goal is the development and subsequent exploitation of
a unifying framework for expressing the inter-relationship between
system architectures and program paradigms.
Such a framework could provide a solid basis for
multiparadigm program development .
In particular, we are interested in multiparadigm programming environments,
that allow a programmer to express
a system using the most suitable
portability of the resulting implementations is not our goal as
efficient implementations are closely tied to the underlying architecture.
a relative amount of portability can be achieved by
using the unifying framework and
by abstracting suitable
taxonomy characteristics of languages and architectures to
identify the optimum coupling points between them.
The word paradigm (from the Greek word
which means example) is
commonly used to refer to a category of entities sharing a
Wittgenstein [29, p. 48] defines a paradigm by examining
all the activities we call games.
Among those activities there are some which possess some characteristic
similarities equivalent to those exhibited by the members of
The notion ``game'' can only be defined by creating
a list of all these typical cases that we call games,
without being able to prescribe specific conditions for
labelling an activity as a ``game.''
In other words, we define games by listing some exemplar cases.
In order to define an activity as a ``game'' it must share some
common, but unspecified characteristics with those exhibited by the other
members of the family; therefore the notion is only vaguely defined.
Kuhn used the notion of a paradigm in the scientific process
by defining it as the scientist's view of the
world and the structure of his or her assumptions and theories[+].
According to Kuhn [11, p. 10]
a paradigm has a wider meaning than that of a
scientific theory; it encompasses ``law, theory, application and
Although Kuhn's examples are drawn from the history of physical
science, his paradigm notion has been extended to a number
of sciences [8,6].
Paradigms are the basis of normal science which is related
to all the activities of the established scientific tradition.
Therefore, the formation of a paradigm is a sign of maturity for
a given science.
In  it is suggested that as programming languages mature, attention
is turning from languages to paradigms.
An analogous statement can be made in relation to computer architectures
where the characteristics of emerging technologies or quantitative
theories are grouped into specific architecture paradigms.
In trying to define the notion of a programming
paradigm the most common definition found, is that of
a ``model or approach in solving a problem'' ,
or the system architecture encompassing definition of
``way of thinking about computer systems'' .
A more general definition is given in [25, p. 21], where
paradigms are described as rules for determining classes
of languages according to some testable conditions.
These conditions can be based on a number of abstraction criteria,
such as the structure of a program or its state, or the
Similarly, system architecture classes can be grouped according to
the cardinality of processing units, the implicit or explicit
control of internal state, and the technologies available for
mapping languages onto the given architecture.
Implementation paradigms, whether at the hardware (system architectural) or
software (programming language) level, are expressed using an appropriate
This notation can resemble the notation used by
the machine that will execute the implementation (ranging from logic gate
to state transition tables, to microcode listings) or it can resemble a
more abstract notation suitable for describing implementations in that problem
At some point however, the implementation will be executed
on a real machine and for this reason the semantic gap between the
implementation paradigm and the programming paradigm of the target
architecture must be bridged.
This is usually done by an interpreter,
a compiler or a hybrid technique.
We regard all these methods as
linguistic transforms from the paradigm notation to the target
This view, although simple provides us with three insights:
- A programming paradigm is nothing magical.
All programming paradigms
can be implemented on all architectures.
Furthermore, in principle,
there is no practical or theoretical reason for not being able
to combine different paradigms, since they can all be mapped into
the same concrete architecture.
- The target architecture plays an important role when thinking of
The concept of the target architecture should be an integral part
of multiparadigm systems and not an externally imposed specification,
or an afterthought.
- The target architecture naturally suggests a paradigm object hierarchy,
with the target architecture forming the root of the hierarchy and
other paradigms forming subclasses.
Subclassing is used to create new paradigms, and
inheritance to combine common features between paradigms.
Under the view outlined, most computer systems are intrinsically ``multiparadigm'',
since they embody a high-level description of some application
with other lower-level elements, such as an operating system, or the
underlying architecture microcode.
From this point onwards, we will use the term ``multiparadigm'' to refer to
some combination of implementation paradigms regardless of whether these
are hardware or software based.
We found that the object metaphor suits the abstraction of a
``programming or architecture paradigm'',
and that by using it a common unifying model can be defined.
In the following paragraphs we will examine how important aspects of
object-oriented programming can be related to programming paradigms and
We will present the elements of the equation :
object-oriented = objects + classes + inheritance
and in addition present the definition of class variables, instance
variables and methods , in the context of programming and
In an object-based multiparadigm programming environment
every paradigm forms a class, and every module written in that paradigm
is an object member of that paradigm's class.
Paradigms form the class hierarchy with the target architecture being
the root of it.
Inheritance is used to bridge the semantic gaps between different paradigms.
An object can be used as the abstraction mechanism for code written
in a given programming paradigm or the realisation of a hardware
Such objects have at least three instance variables
- Source code.
The source code contained in an object is the module code provided by the
- Compiled code.
The compiled code is an internal representation of that specification
(generated by the class compilation method) that is used by
the class execution method in order to implement the specification.
- Module state.
The module state contains local data, dependent on the paradigm and
its execution method, that is needed for executing the code
of that object.
Every object has at least one method:
- Instance initialisation method.
The instance initialisation method is called once for every object instance
when the object is loaded and before program execution begins.
It can be used to initialise the module state variable.
As an example, given the imperative paradigm and its concrete realisation
in the form of Modula-2  programs, an object written in
the imperative paradigm corresponds to a Modula-2 module.
The source code variable of that object contains the source
code of the module, the compiled code variable contains
the compiled source, and the module state variable
contains the values of the global variables.
In addition, the instance initialisation method is the
code found delimited between BEGIN and END in the module
In an example closer to the system architecture, the source code variable
represents the assembly listing of that compiled module, the object
code variable represents the machine code, while the module state
is contained in the processor's data memory allocated for that module.
Programming paradigm classes and objects
Collections of objects of the same paradigm are members of a class.
All classes contain at least one class variable (Fig. 1):
In addition, paradigm classes define at least four methods:
contains global data needed by the execution method for all
instances of that class.
The compilation and execution methods also contain the machinery needed to
implement the import and export call gates described in Sect.
- Compilation method.
The compilation method is responsible for transforming, at compile-time,
the source code written in that paradigm into the appropriate representation for
execution at run-time.
- Class initialisation method.
The class initialisation method of a paradigm is called on system startup in
order to initialise the class variables of that class. It also calls
the instance initialisation method for all objects of that class.
- Execution method.
The execution method of a class provides the run-time support needed in
order to implement a given paradigm.
- Documentation method.
The documentation method provides a description of the class
functionality. It is used during the building phase of the multiparadigm
in order to create an organised and coherent documentation system.
Taking as a paradigm class example
the logic programming paradigm realised as Prolog compiled
into Warren abstract machine instructions ,
the class state variable contains the heap, stack and
trail needed by the abstract machine.
In addition, the compilation method is
the compiler translating Prolog clauses into abstract instructions,
the class initialisation method is the code initialising the
abstract machine interpreter, while the execution method is
the interpreter itself.
The above also holds if the abstract machine is realised as a
concrete hardware architecture.
In that case the execution method is the processor hardware,
or -- for microcode-based systems -- its microcode.
Inheritance is used to bridge the semantic gap between code
written in a given paradigm and its execution on a concrete architecture.
We regard the programming paradigm of the target architecture as the
If it is a uniprocessor architecture it has exactly one object instance,
otherwise it has as many instances as the number of processors.
The execution method is implemented by the processor hardware and
the class_state is contained in the processor's registers.
The compiled code and module state variables are kept in
the processor's instruction and data memory respectively.
From the root class we build a hierarchy of paradigms based
on their semantic and syntactic relationships.
Each subclass inherits the methods of its parent class,
and can thus use them to implement a more sophisticated paradigm.
This is achieved, because each paradigm class creates a higher level
of linguistic abstraction, which its subclasses can use.
As an example, most paradigms have a notion of dynamic memory;
a class can be created to provide this feature for these paradigms.
Two subclasses can be derived from that class, one for
programmer-controlled memory allocation and deallocation and another for
automatic garbage collection.
As another example a simulation paradigm and a communicating sequential
processes paradigm could both be subclasses of a coroutine-based paradigm.
Subclassing is not only used for the run-time class execution methods.
Syntactic (i.e. compile-time) features of paradigms can be captured
with it as well.
Many constraint logic languages share the syntax of Prolog, thus
it is natural to think of a constraint logic paradigm as a subclass
of the logic paradigm providing its own solver method, and extension
to the Prolog syntax for specifying constraints.
A paradigm class tree based around these examples is shown in
It is important to note that Fig. 2 only represents an example
based on one possible set of abstraction characteristics.
Other class hierarchies based on language attributes such as
type system or block structure are possible and may be preferable.
Paradigm class tree structure example
Having described the basic structure of a multiparadigm system we
must now deal with the problem of paradigm inter-operation.
Languages supporting modularisation allow a problem to be decomposed
in smaller problems.
The entities representing the decomposed problem vary according to the
language paradigm as summarised in the Table 1.
Each one of them however is based on the basic computational model
of input, computation, and output.
Paradigms and their problem decomposition entities.
When a decomposition entity is invoked (implicitly or explicitly),
control is passed to it in conjunction with some input data.
After the requisite computation is performed, control passes back to the
invoking entity together with the resulting data.
In some cases the computation entity may directly interact with input/output
devices or modify its internal state.
In those cases, input and/or output data does not have to be provided.
Examples of explicit and implicit control transfer are given in
Tables 2 and 3 respectively.
Explicit control transfer in different paradigms.
||Eager beta reduction
||Predicate invocation through its call port
(c.f. Byrd model )
Implicit control transfer in different paradigms.
||Invocation of an interrupt handler
beta reduction of a suspended expression in a
||Predicate invocation through its redo port (backtracking)
||A process is awaken as a result of an external event
(e.g. an input or output buffer becomes full)
Our approach supports explicit control transfer between paradigms,
and implicit control transfer within a paradigm.
In this way all semantic and
implementation issues related to the implicit transfer of
control are avoided at the expense of a less expressive system.
The restricted version of control transfer is based on the
encapsulation properties of the underlying objects:
control transfer between the paradigms follows the control transfer
conventions of their superclass.
This recursive definition is followed
until we reach the root class, the target architecture.
conventions of the parent paradigm ensures that no unexpected
By unexpected interactions we mean implicit and unintended control
transfer from one paradigm to the other.
The subclasses are coded using the features
and caveats of the parent class; this ensures that unexpected
interactions will not occur.
We will attempt to clarify this statement by four examples:
- Non-Preemptive Von-Neumann Target Architecture
- The basic control transfer mechanism used is the explicit procedure call.
Implicit calls between other paradigms will be encapsulated within their
respective classes and therefore the paradigms remain isolated.
- Threads Subclass
- We assume now the existence of the thread programming subclass
with primitives that allow the creation of multiple processes.
Since this subclass was coded using the mechanisms of the parent
paradigm, the threads created will be non-preemptive and therefore
all implicit control transfers will happen within the threads
Therefore no implicit control transfers can occur between paradigms,
other than subclasses of the threads paradigm.
These subclasses will of course be coded to anticipate such control
- Event-Driven Target Architecture
- In an event-driven target architecture, all paradigm compilers have
to be able to cope with non-deterministic control transfers.
For this reason the paradigms provided will -- by definition -- be
able to cope with such transfers.
A straightforward way to implement such a system would be to disable
interrupts when paradigms that are unsuitable for such an environment
are executed (a higher quality implementation would provide a better solution).
- Parallel Target Architecture
- Here again the target architecture imposes some stringent requirements
regarding synchronisation, memory sharing, message passing etc.
All these requirements are inherited, and must be handled
by all paradigm subclasses.
The data that is exchanged between the computation entities can
be divided between data that is commonly available in similar
across many different paradigms, and data representations
that are only supported in a limited number of paradigms.
We say that a paradigm supports a given data representation
if that form of representation can be
Examples of data representation commonly
available across different paradigms and representations
particular to specific paradigms are listed in Tables 4
expressed in the source code of that paradigm,
dynamically created at run-time, and
operated upon by the data manipulation primitives or libraries of that paradigm.
Data representations commonly available across many paradigms.
||Two, four or 8 bytes
||One byte (ASCII)
|Floating point number
||IEEE 488 byte sequence
||Single byte or bit
|A finite predetermined collection of the above (record, structure, term)
||Sequence of bytes representing the above
Data representations particular to specific paradigms.
|List of infinite length
|Pointer or reference
|Valued data object whose value can be changed
For the sake of simplicity our approach only supports inter-paradigm
communication with data representations supported by both paradigms
When the two paradigm implementations use dissimilar
representations, it is straightforward to map one representation to the
Examples of such transformations include the assembling or
disassembling of plain values used in imperative paradigms
to the cell-based representations common in declarative
paradigms, or the changes between byte orderings for
different representations of arithmetic types.
This approach again trades limited
expressive power for semantic and implementational simplicity.
Paradigm inter-operation can be designed around an abstraction we
name a call gate.
A call gate is an interfacing point between two paradigms, one of which
is a direct subclass of the other.
We define two types of call gates, the import gate, and the export gate.
In order for a paradigm to use a service provided by another paradigm
(this could be a procedure, clause, function, rule, or a port, depending
on the other paradigm),
that service must pass thought its import gate.
Conversely, on the other paradigm the same service must pass through its
The call gates are design abstractions and not concrete implementation
They can be implemented by the paradigm compiler, the runtime environment,
the end user, or a mixture of the three.
Each paradigm provides an import and export gate and documents the
conventions used and expected.
The input of the export gate, and the output of the import gate
follow the conventions of the paradigm,
while the output of the export gate, and the input of the import gate,
follow the conventions of the paradigms' superclass.
The target architecture paradigm combines its import and its
export gate using the linked code as the sink for its export
gate and the source for its import gate.
Call gates can make the paradigm inter-operation transparent to the
application programmer, and provide global scale inter-operation using
only local information.
Figure 3 illustrates an example case.
Assume that a module written in paradigm 2 is using a facility implemented
in paradigm 1.1.
The module written in paradigm 1.1 will export that facility
(using the syntax and semantics appropriate to paradigm 1.1) to its
superclass (paradigm 1) through its export gate, thus converting
it to the data types and calling conventions used by paradigm 1.
Paradigm 1 will again pass it through its export gate, converting it
to the conventions used by paradigm 0, the target architecture.
(For example, the calling conventions of the Unix system can include the
passing of parameters through a stack frame, and the naming of identifiers
with a prepended underscore.)
In this form the facility will again be imported from the pool of linked
code by paradigm 1 and made available to its subclasses using its
The facility can then be imported and used by paradigm 2 which can
understand the calling conventions of paradigm 1.
Although during the path described the facility crossed three paradigm
boundaries, in all cases the paradigm just needed to be able to map between its
calling conventions and data types and those of its superclass.
Paradigm inter-operation using call gates
We must note at this point that the class hierarchy is not visible
to the application programmer.
The hierarchy is useful for the multiparadigm programming environment
implementor, as it provides a structure for building the system,
but is irrelevant to the application programmer, who only looks for
the most suited paradigm to build his application.
This is consistent with the recent trend in object-oriented programming
of regarding inheritance as a producer's mechanism ,
that has little to do with the end-user's use of the classes .
Blueprint is an exemplar multiparadigm programming environment,
built using the object-based approach.
It was implemented in order to prove the viability of the object-based
approach to multiparadigm programming and
its design was centred around the following objectives:
realisation of a wide variety of diverse programming paradigms,
and implementation methods,
provision of a non-trivial class hierarchy, including the abstraction of
common characteristics in a special
incorporation of existing tools, and
ability to bootstrap the system and implement a non-trivial application
in order to test and use it as much as possible.
The blueprint name is derived from the acrostical spelling of
the paradigms provided, namely:
- BNF grammar descriptions (bnf),
- lazy higher order functions (fun),
- unification and backtracking (btrack),
- regular expressions (regex),
- imperative constructs (imper) and,
- term handling (term).
All paradigms are provided in the form of individual
tools that convert the code expressed in a given paradigm into object
code that can be linked and executed together with code from other
Blueprint class hierarchy
The target paradigm of blueprint is the imperative
paradigm provided by the target architecture, which in our case is
that of the Sun SPARC computer.
The class structure of the paradigm classes implemented
can be seen in Fig. 4.
Term expressions are the natural data objects,
for both functional and logic languages; the provision of the term
class is based on this observation and, in addition, provides a
practical vehicle for their implementation.
It is important to note that the tree structure is only used in
order to design and implement the system.
The structure is transparent to a programmer using blueprint who
is presented with a flat structure of all the paradigms
In the following paragraphs we briefly describe each blueprint paradigm.
Programmer's view of blueprint
Blueprint was used to bootstrap itself and, in addition, to implement
a small algebraic manipulation system.
In the implementation of blueprint four of the six available paradigms
were used, as illustrated in Table 6.
Each row of the table shows a breakdown (in lines of code) of the
paradigms used to implement the system named in its first column.
The class structure of every paradigm was described in a paradigm
description file (the table column labelled PDF), which was then processed
by a special compiler in a way analogous to the one described in 
to create the requisite translation tools.
Some of the paradigms were implemented using existing tools and their
implementation consists of just a paradigm description file.
- Imperative Paradigm
the imperative paradigm, is provided in the form of the C programming
It is the one closest to the target architecture, and the calling
and naming conventions of the language are used as a common interface
for the other paradigms.
- BNF Grammar and Regular Expression Paradigms
- The bnf (BNF-grammar) and regex (regular expression) paradigms
are used to encapsulate
yacc  grammar descriptions and lex 
lexical analyser specifications, as objects.
The main advantage of this encapsulation is the ability to use more
than a single grammar description or lexical analyser specification
within the same project.
This is achieved by ``protecting'' the global variable and function
names that yacc and lex define by prepending them their
object (module) name.
Both paradigms were implemented by using special tools to
create multiparadigm environment conformant compilers out of the
standard Unix yacc and lex generators.
Inter-operation with the imperative paradigm is achieved by using the
standard lex and yacc interfacing conventions, as modified
by the object encapsulation scheme.
- Rule-rewrite Paradigm
- Term, the term-based rule rewrite paradigm abstracts the notion
of a term used by both the functional and logic programming
Its syntax resembles that of Prolog, but it uses a deterministic rule-rewrite
execution model with predefined argument mode declarations, resembling the
functionality provided by Strand .
Term is implemented in term, imper, bnf, and regex
as a compiler that translates term into C.
It was bootstrapped using the SB-Prolog compiler , and a
semi-automatic translation process.
Inter-operation with the imperative paradigm is provided by documenting
the compiled form of the term ``predicates'' and providing access
and constructor functions for the term abstract data type, in its
converted form of C structures.
- Logic Programming Paradigm
- Btrack, the logic programming paradigm provides the backtracking
execution model, deep unification and syntax, associated with implementations
of the Prolog programming language.
It is implemented in term as an encoded token interpreter based on a
solve/unify loop [3, p. 1313].
The btrack to term token conversion is performed by ``compiling''
the btrack predicates into term rules.
Inter-operation with term is achieved by defining the predicates that
are exported using term signatures.
The btrack compiler then creates the necessary interfaces and
- Functional Programming Paradigm
- Fun, the functional programming paradigm offers lazy higher order
functions supporting currying and call-by-name normal-order evaluation.
Its syntax resembles that of Miranda  omitting the guard
and pattern matching constructs.
It is implemented in bnf, lex, and term with function
evaluation provided by an eval/apply interpreter,
written in term.
Inter-operation with term is provided by allowing the import of single
result term rules and exporting functions as term rules with
a single result.
Calls to and from fun need to take into account and respect the
fun data structuring conventions, which are documented as term
Blueprint paradigm implementation summary
The algebraic manipulation system deals numerically and graphically
with definite integrals and symbolically with indefinite ones.
It was implemented at a fraction of time and effort spent to implement
an analogous one in Modula-2 by using all six paradigms available under
The breakdown of the system into the paradigms used is illustrated in
Algebraic manipulation system implementation
In a survey of multiparadigm programming we have identified more than 100
languages and systems that allow programming in more than one paradigm.
A number of multiparadigm projects are described in ,
languages based on distributed system architectures are
surveyed in , and implementations of different paradigms of
parallel computer architectures are examined in .
Most of the multiparadigm languages attempt to amalgamate the advantages
of their constituent paradigms, either in a pragmatic implementation-targeted
way, or by developing an underlying theory.
Some typical examples are [18,26,21].
Our approach differs from those in that we offer an underlying unifying
framework for the combination of arbitrary paradigms instead of examining how
specific paradigms can be combined.
It is a pragmatic approach weak on its theoretical basis.
The compositional approach described in  can also
deal with arbitrary paradigms, but is concerned more with the validation
of the resulting system.
The intimate relation between the target architecture and the programming
language that forms the basis of our approach is examined in .
The abstraction of
programming languages and system architectures as object classes
provides a unified model for dealing with multiparadigm programming
Objects are used as encapsulation entities for modules written in
different paradigms, while inheritance is used to bridge the semantic
gap between a high level language and the target architecture.
Our implementation of an exemplar system based on these principles
and its use both as a bootstrapping vehicle and as an implementation
platform demonstrated the viability of this approach.
We intend to use the same approach on different types of computer
architectures in order to test its applicability and limits.
One other challenging problem is the development of a theoretical
reasoning framework that can be applied to architecture and language
systems structured using object classes.
We would like to express our thanks to our colleagues at the
Distributed Software Engineering group at Imperial College
for ideas and discussions during the conduct of this research,
and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
Financial support from the British Science and Engineering Research Council
and the DTI under grant ref. IED4/410/36/002 is gratefully acknowledged.
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Our apologies to the many people who are offended by Kuhn's misuse
of the word paradigm.
paradigms may cell a particular representation in the
form of a record usually containing its type and a pointer to the actual value.