Variability Support in Domain-Specific Language Development

Abstract

Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) are widely adopted to capitalize on business domain experiences. Consequently, DSL development is becoming a recurring activity. Unfortunately, even though it has its benefits, language development is a complex and time-consuming task. Languages are commonly realized from scratch, even when they share some concepts and even though they could share bits of tool support. This cost can be reduced by employing modern modular programming techniques that foster code reuse. However, selecting and composing these modules is often only within the reach of a skilled DSL developer. In this paper we propose to combine modular language development and variability management, with the objective of capitalizing on existing assets. This approach explicitly models the dependencies between language components, thereby allowing a domain expert to configure a desired DSL, and automatically derive its implementation. The approach is tool supported, using Neverlang to implement language components, and the Common Variability Language (CVL) for managing the variability and automating the configuration. We will further illustrate our approach with the help of a case study, where we will implement a family of DSLs to describe state machines.

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