A Constructive Approach to Language Definition

Abstract

Most approaches to formal semantics are based on the assumption that all the constructs of a language are defined together. The details of the definition of each construct can (and usually do) depend on which other constructs are included in the given language. This limits reuse of definitions of common constructs. With the more constructive approach proposed here, the semantics of each basic abstract programming construct is defined separately and independently. The semantics of a full language is obtained by translating its constructs into the basic abstract constructs, whose definitions are thus reused verbatim. The frameworks of Modular SOS and Action Semantics can both be used in conjunction with the proposed approach. Some illustrations are given.

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