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1 Introduction

Mercury is a new general-purpose programming language, designed and implemented by a small group of researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Mercury is based on the paradigm of purely declarative programming, and was designed to be useful for the development of large and robust “real-world” applications. It improves on existing logic programming languages by providing increased productivity, reliability and efficiency, and by avoiding the need for non-logical program constructs. Mercury provides the traditional logic programming syntax, but also allows the syntactic convenience of user-defined functions, smoothly integrating logic and functional programming into a single paradigm.

Mercury requires programmers to supply type, mode and determinism declarations for the predicates and functions they write. The compiler checks these declarations, and rejects the program if it cannot prove that every predicate or function satisfies its declarations. This improves reliability, since many kinds of errors simply cannot happen in successfully compiled Mercury programs. It also improves productivity, since the compiler pinpoints many errors that would otherwise require manual debugging to locate. The fact that declarations are checked by the compiler makes them much more useful than comments to anyone who has to maintain the program. The compiler also exploits the guaranteed correctness of the declarations for significantly improving the efficiency of the code it generates.

To facilitate programming-in-the-large, to allow separate compilation, and to support encapsulation, Mercury has a simple module system. Mercury’s standard library has a variety of pre-defined modules for common programming tasks — see the Mercury Library Reference Manual.