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The strong focus of recent high end computing efforts on performance has resulted in a low-level parallel programming paradigm characterized by explicit control over message-passing in the framework of a fragmented programming model. In such a model, object code performance is achieved at the expense of productivity, conciseness, and clarity. This paper describes the design of Chapel, the cascade high productivity language, which is being developed in the DARPA-funded HPCS project Cascade led by Cray Inc. Chapel pushes the state-of-the-art in languages for HEC system programming by focusing on productivity, in particular by combining the goal of highest possible object code performance with that of programmability offered by a high-level user interface. The design of Chapel is guided by four key areas of language technology: multithreading, locality-awareness, object-orientation, and generic programming. The Cascade architecture, which is being developed in parallel with the language, provides key architectural support for its efficient implementation.