This course is a survey of programming languages and paradigms. We will focus on the design of programming languages and compare and contrast different language families including imperative, object-oriented, functional, and logic paradigms. Topics include syntax, context-free grammars, parsing, semantics, abstract representations of programming processes and structures, memory management, and exceptions. Students will undertake small programming projects in various languages and more extensive projects in two languages of their choice. Students will present the characteristics of their chosen languages to their peers at the end of the term. More...

Credits 4
Prerequisite CS 231 - Data Structures and Algorithms
Semester Spring 2021
Time Zone All the times on this webpage refer to EST.
Date Time, Location MWF 11:00 - 11:45 am,
Olin 019B
Instructor Ying Li
Office: Davis 111
In-person Course

CS333 in Spring 2021 adopts the in-person model, allowing in-person students to participate in the class.

However, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic situation, we may have to have some remote classes, e.g., the first three days of the semester, Feb. 10 to Feb. 12. When we have to switch to the remote model, please join the class using the Zoom link provided here (Colby IP Needed). Please mute yourself after joining the class. If you have questions to ask, please unmute yourself or type your quesiton in the chatbox. I will check the chatbox when it's appropriate.

The in-person lecture will not be recorded, but the remote lectures will be recorded and posted on the course website. If you have to miss a lectures for any reason, please let me know in advance. I'm happy to work with you and direct you to read the lecture notes for the classes you missed. Do not hesitate to come to my office hours or email me if you have any questions.

Please wear a mask during the 50-minute class when we meet in person. It will protect everyone in the classroom, including yourself.

Although we've been through the pandemic for almost a year, I believe many of us are still trying very hard to get used to the new normal, and the process is not easy nor pleasure. Please do not hesitate to share your experience/suggestions/thoughts/comments with me whenever you want. We need to work together to make everyone feel comfortable in this class during this challenging period.

Ying's Office Hours

MTWR 2:30 - 4:00 pm or by appointment

I will be waiting for you over Zoom 2:30 - 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday. You can find the Zoom link for my office hours from here (Colby IP Needed). I look forward to meeting you during my office hours. We can solve your questions together or talk about any topics you are interested in. If you want to meet outside of my office hours, please email me to make an appointment. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I'll do my best to reply to your email in a timely manner and help you in any way I can.

Evening TAs

The course is in-person this semester. So, we have an evening TA helping us on Wednesdays.

Evening TA sessions will be remote initially this semester. The department may or may not revisit it later this semester, depending on the pandemic situation. Remote TA sessions will be held over Zoom. Please find the Zoom link for evening TA sessions from here (Colby IP Needed).

Date, Time TA (Email)
Wednesday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm Matthew Maring (
Course Goals
  1. Students demonstrate an understanding of different language paradigms and implement algorithms in each paradigm.
  2. Students demonstrate an ability to independently learn programming languages.
  3. Students demonstrate an ability to describe the syntax, semantics and functionality of different languages in a common, rigorous manner.
  4. Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between language and design.
  5. Students work with partners to learn one or more languages and present them to the class.
  6. Students present algorithms, languages, and their characteristics in an organized and competently written manner.
Grading The course grade will be determined as follows:
  • Projects: 45%
  • Weekly Homework: 10%
  • Bi-weekly Quizzes: 15%
  • Class Participation: 10%
  • Final Exam: 20%
Programming Projects

This course has eight programming projects helping you practice the knowledge you learned in class. Three of them are weekly projects, and the remaining three are bi-weekly projects. These projects are usually assigned on Wednesdays. The usual deadline is the following Wednesday midnight (for weekly projects) or midnight of the second Wednesday after the project is assigned (for bi-weekly projects).

Every project has two parts, one for the C programming language and the other for your selected language. You are expected to finish the C part individually. For the selected langauge part, you are expected to learn a programming language and complete this part by yourself or with a partner. If you want to work with a partner, you and your partner should learn the same language together from Project 2. Both team members should actively learn the selected language. The final exam relies on how well you know the selected language.

You should submit all your source code (C and the selected language) and a README.txt file to the fileserver and submit a Wiki report for the selected language. The submission details are listed in every project. Please follow the submission instruction to turn in your projects.

Projects are graded based on a 30 point scale. Late projects will receive a maximum score of 26/30, so handing in something on the due date is generally better than handing in a complete assignment late.

As you all have busy schedules, you may have one four-day extension you can use at your discretion over the course of the semester, excepting only the final project. That means that you may choose to hand in one project on Sunday instead of Wednesday. Please email Ying and let her know you are taking your extension before the deadline.

Weekly Homework

Homework helps you self-check your understanding of the course contents and get you prepared for the quizzes. Homework is usually assigned every Wednesday after the first week of class. The deadline is usually the following Friday at the beginning of the class.

The homework deadlines are hard deadlines. We will discuss the solution in Friday's class, so late submission will not be accepted. Homework will be graded in a binary fashion: if you hand in a reasonable attempt before deadline, you get a 1, otherwise a 0.

Homework submission is via email. Please make sure the subject of your email follows this format CS333 Spring2021 HW# -- Your Name (e.g., CS333 Spring2021 HW1 -- Ying Li). If your subject format is correct, you will automatically receive the homework solution.

Bi-weekly Quizzes

Bi-weekly quizzes are an opportunity for you to show me your understanding of the course. They should be quick and straightforward if you participate in class, study the notes, and complete the homework.

There will be a 10-15 minute online quiz on Moodle usually every other Friday. You have 20 minutes to complete the quiz. The quiz will open on Moodle from the end of Friday's lecture to the midnight of Sunday.

You have two ways to take the quizzes: you can bring your laptop and take the quiz in class; you can also leave the classroom when the quiz starts and finish it before the deadline.

You are expected to take the quiz individually. Please be responsible for yourself.

Each quiz may be made up when a prior request is made or there is a documented health issue. Please contact me immediately in the event of illness and other unforeseen circumstances, we will work out accommodations.

I understand that everyone has a bad day; the lowest quiz grade will be dropped.

You can find the quizzes via this Moodle link.

Class Participation

You are expected to attend every lecture and actively join the class discussions. Class discussion is a vital part of the learning experience. A good class discussion needs your contribution.

If you have to miss one or more lectures for any reason, please let me know in advance. I'm happy to work with you and direct you to the lecture notes and coursework.

Lecture notes will be posted in the Notes section of this webpage few hours after the class. If we have to switch to the remote model, video recordings will be posted in the Notes section too.

Participation also includes coming to my office hours or asking for help from the TAs. Don’t hesitate to come to my office hours or email me. I'm happy to help if you let me know your questions.

Final Exam

The final exam will be oral, and you are expected to finish it individually. Exam details will be given in the last class. There are no make-ups for the final exam.


There is no required textbook for this course. You are encourage to read the lecture notes. All lecture notes will be posted in the Notes section of the webpage.

The following textbook is recommended if you are interested in consulting an additional resource.

Allen B. Tucker and Robert E. Noonan: Programming Languages: Principles and Paradigms, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2006, ISBN 978-0-07-286609-4.


Everyone will be programming in C and choosing one language from List A in this course. If you are interested in learning a second selected language as an extension, you can pick one from List A, B, or C. You are expected the selected langauge(s) that is new to you.

List Languages
A: Imperative and
Object-Oriented Languages
Visual Basic
B: Functional and Logic
C: Special Purpose Languages Extensible Markup Language [XML]
Supercollider Extempore

Also, check out the esoteric programming languages like Beatnik, Brainfuck, and Shakespeare.

How to succeed

Projects: Start working on the projects as early as possible. Ask TAs and me for help if you need. Talk with your peers about the course concepts.

Homework: Homework assignments help you self-check your understanding of the course contents and prepare you better for the quizzes. You are strongly encouraged to try out the homework questions before reading my homework solutions.

Quizzes: Study for the quizzes by doing the homework assignments. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped. So, your grade won't be affected by that single underperformed quiz.

Participation: Be active in class, asking questions and joining discussions. Come to Ying's office hours. Ask her or TAs for help if you have questions.

Final Exam: Learn your selected language and C language well enough during the semester and let yourself feel comfortable talk about these languages. Start working on the exam early after it's assigned.

Collaboration, Academic honesty

This policy applies to anyone you work with other than your partner.

Computer science, both academically and professionally, is a collaborative discipline. In any collaboration, however, all parties are expected to make their own contributions and to generously credit the contributions of others. In our class, therefore, collaboration on homework and programming assignments is encouraged, but you as an individual are responsible for understanding all the material in the assignment and doing your own work. Always strive to do your best, give generous credit to others, start early, and seek help early from both your professors and classmates.

The following rules are intended to help you get the most out of your education and to clarify the line between honest and dishonest work. We reserve the right to ask you to verbally explain the reasoning behind any answer or code that you turn in and to modify your project grade based on your answers. It is vitally important that you turn in work that is your own. We do use automated plagiarism detection software, so please be sure to abide by these, rather minimal, rules. Reports of academic dishonesty are handled by an academic review board and a finding of academic dishonesty may result in significant sanctions. For more details on Colby's Academic Integrity policies and procedures, see

  • If you have had a substantive discussion of any programming project with a classmate, then be sure to cite them in your write-up. If you are unsure of what constitutes "substantive", then ask me or err on the side of caution. As one rule of thumb, if you see more than 10 lines of someone else's code, then you should cite them. You will not be penalized for working together.
  • You must not copy answers or code from another student either by hand or electronically. Another way to think about it is that you should be talking English with one another, not program languages.
The Colby Affirmation

Colby College is a community dedicated to learning and committed to the growth and well-being of all its members.

As a community devoted to intellectual growth, we value academic integrity. We agree to take ownership of our academic work, to submit only work that is our own, to fully acknowledge the research and ideas of others in our work, and to abide by the instructions and regulations governing academic work established by the faculty.

As a community built on respect for ourselves, each other, and our physical environment, we recognize the diversity of people who have gathered here and that genuine inclusivity requires active, honest, and compassionate engagement with one another. We agree to respect each other, to honor community expectations, and to comply with College policies.

As a member of this community, I pledge to hold myself and others accountable to these values. More ...

Title IX Statement

Colby College prohibits and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination of any kind. Colby is legally obligated to investigate sexual misconduct (including, but not limited to sexual assault and sexual harassment).

If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, please contact Colby Counseling Services (207-859-4490) or the Director of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Program, Emily Schusterbauer (207-859-4093).

Students should be aware that faculty members are considered responsible employees; as such, if you disclose an incident of sexual misconduct to a faculty member, they have an obligation to report it to Colby's Title IX Coordinator. "Disclosure" may include communication in-person, via email/phone/text, or through class assignments.

To learn more about sexual misconduct or report an incident, visit

Religious Holidays

Colby College supports the religious practices of students, faculty, and staff, but we don't always know which people will observe which holidays. Since I need to plan course activities in advance, I need to know in advance, if you need to miss a class or have a deadline adjusted in order to observe a holiday. Please notify me by email at least 14 days in advance of any religious holiday that will affect your ability to participate in this course.

© 2021 Ying Li. Page last modified: 01/31/2020