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Grammatical Framework Tutorial

ICFP 2012, Copenhagen 9-15 September 2012


This tutorial gives a hands-on introduction to GF (Grammatical Framework), a special-purpose functional language for writing grammars (

We will show how techniques from compiler construction and functional programming can be used in the processing of natural languages, but also for formal languages and interfacing the two. An emerging use is DSL's, where GF provides high expressive power in terms of both linguistic expressivity (beyond context-free) and semantics (dependent types).

GF activities are rapidly growing: there is an on-going EU project MOLTO (, as well as a new textbook (Aarne Ranta, Grammatical Framework: Programming with Multilingual Grammars, CSLI Publications, Stanford, 2011). GF also has users in companies (Galois, Ontotext, BeInformed, Google). Interestingly, GF has been the first functional language for many people, in particular those with a linguistic background. It has a unique combination of advanced features such as parametrized modules, regular expression pattern matching, and dependent types - all of which are amply motivated by practical applications.

The GF Resource Grammar Library is an open-source international project now comprising 24 languages, with 5 to 10 more under construction. It makes it possible to develop grammar applications without linguistic knowledge.

At the same time, it is an experiment on using a common abstract syntax for the languages of the world. We don't claim it to be a universal grammar with no exceptions, but so far we haven't met any unsurmountable problems. If you want to contribute a new language, let us know! It is a job of 2 to 6 months.

Structure of the tutorial

Hour 1. Writing multilingual grammars in GF (Aarne Ranta) Slides

Hour 2. Applications for the web, mobile phones, and as embedded Haskell programs (Thomas Hallgren) Slides

Hour 3. Internals of GF, theoretical aspects, and future trends (Krasimir Angelov)


Krasimir Angelov

Thomas Hallgren

Aarne Ranta