The Cecil Language: Specification & Rationale

Craig Chambers and the Cecil Group
Cecil is a purely object-oriented language intended to support rapid construction of high-quality, extensible software. Cecil combines multi-methods with a simple classless object model, a kind of dynamic inheritance, modules, and optional static type checking. Instance variables in Cecil are accessed solely through messages, allowing instance variables to be replaced or overridden by methods and vice versa. Cecil's predicate objects mechanism allows an object to be classified automatically based on its run-time (mutable) state. Cecil's static type system distinguishes between subtyping and code inheritance, but Cecil enables these two graphs to be described with a single set of declarations, streamlining the common case where the two graphs are parallel. Cecil includes a fairly flexible form of parameterization, including explicitly parameterized objects, types, and methods, as well as implicitly parameterized methods related to the polymorphic functions commonly found in functional languages. By making type declarations optional, Cecil aims to allow mixing of and migration between exploratory and production programming styles. Cecil supports a module mechanism that enables independently-developed subsystems to be encapsulated, allowing them to be type-checked and reasoned about in isolation despite the presence of multi-methods and subclassing. Objects can be extended externally with additional methods and instance variables, often encapsulated in separate modules, supporting a kind of role-based or subject-oriented programming style.

This document mixes the specification of the language with discussions of design issues and explanations of the reasoning that led to various design decisions.

To get the PostScript file for the most recent version of the Cecil language specification, click here.
Cecil/Vortex Project