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A Core Calculus of Metaclasses

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt Eric Allen

Presented at Foundations of Object-Oriented Languages (FOOL 2005), Long Beach, California (in conjunction with POPL), Saturday 15 January 2005


Metaclasses provide a useful method of abstraction for programmers working with object-oriented languages, but they have not seen the formal exploration applied to more conventional object-oriented programming features. In order to elucidate the structure of metaclasses and their relationship with static typing, we present a core calculus for a nominally-typed object-oriented language with metaclasses and prove type soundness over this core. This calculus is presented as an adaptation of Featherweight GJ, and is powerful enough to capture metaclass relationships beyond what are expressible in common object-oriented languages, including arbitrary metaclass hierarchies and classes as values. We also explore the integration of object-oriented design patterns with metaclasses, and show how our calculus integrates several such patterns cleanly.


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