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Introduction to Prolog

This chapter introduces the Prolog programming language. Here we will explain a bit of how Prolog works. It is not intended to be a full description of how to become an expert Prolog programmer. For that, after reading this chapter, you should refer to another book, such as Programming in Prolog by Clocksin and Mellish, or if you are already very familiar with Prolog, you might look at The Craft of Prolog by Richard O'Keefe. While this is an introduction to Prolog, even experts may find something of interest in this chapter, since I explain Prolog in a somewhat unusual way, that may give new insights to old Prolog programmers.

Prolog's name is short for ``Programming in Logic'' (or really for Programmation Logique?'') As its name suggests, Prolog is firmly based on logic, and Prolog programs can be understood as statements in a formal logic. I.e., a Prolog program can be thought of as a set of statements in first-order logic, and the meaning of the program is the set of true implications of those logical statements. This is the approach that is usually taken to describe Prolog programming to novices. However, the amazing thing about logic programming to me is not that it is logic, but that it is programming. These Prolog programs are not only statements in a logic but they are also statements in a programming language. This is referred to in the biz by saying that Prolog programs have a procedural interpretation (i.e., as programs) as well as a declarative interpretation (i.e., as statements in a logic.) The introduction to Prolog that I give here will emphasize its procedurality. This may be anathema to some Prolog purists (and it certainly would have been to me a while ago) but I now feel that this is the best way to introduce logic programming to computer scientists who already know about programming. We will build on your understanding of programming, and use that to lead to logic.

Next: Prolog as a Procedural Up: Programming in Tabled Prolog Previous: Background and Motivation
David S. Warren
1999-07-31