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Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online

Peter Mosses Orcid Logo

Pages: 249 - 273

Swansea University Author: Peter Mosses Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1007/978-1-84882-736-3_8

Abstract

<p>Since the middle of the twentieth century, hundreds of programming languages have been designed and implemented – and new ones are continually emerging. The syntax of a programming language can usually be described quite precisely and efficiently using formal grammars. However, the formal d...

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Published: Springer 2010
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa8
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fullrecord <?xml version="1.0"?><rfc1807><datestamp>2013-10-17T15:27:30.4976595</datestamp><bib-version>v2</bib-version><id>8</id><entry>2012-02-23</entry><title>Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online</title><swanseaauthors><author><sid>3f13b8ec315845c81d371f41e772399c</sid><ORCID>0000-0002-5826-7520</ORCID><firstname>Peter</firstname><surname>Mosses</surname><name>Peter Mosses</name><active>true</active><ethesisStudent>false</ethesisStudent></author></swanseaauthors><date>2012-02-23</date><deptcode>FGSEN</deptcode><abstract>&lt;p&gt;Since the middle of the twentieth century, hundreds of programming languages have been designed and implemented &#x2013; and new ones are continually emerging. The syntax of a programming language can usually be described quite precisely and efficiently using formal grammars. However, the formal description of its semantics is much more challenging. Language designers, implementers and programmers commonly regard formal semantic descriptions as impractical. Research in semantics has allowed us to reason about software and has provided valuable insight into the design of programming languages, but few semantic descriptions of full languages have been published, and hardly any of these are currently available online.&lt;/p&gt;&lt;p&gt;One of the major approaches to formal semantics is denotational semantics, which originated from Strachey&#x2019;s pioneering studies in the 1960s. Why is such a theoretically attractive approach generally regarded as impractical for describing full-scale programming languages? Does it help much to use monads in denotational descriptions, or is a more radical change needed? How might efficient online access to a repository of semantic descriptions be provided? Could it ever become as easy to generate efficient compilers and interpreters from semantic descriptions as it already is to generate parsers from grammars? This chapter addresses such questions and gives some grounds for optimism about the development of highly practical, online semantic descriptions.&lt;/p&gt;</abstract><type>Book chapter</type><journal></journal><volume></volume><journalNumber></journalNumber><paginationStart>249</paginationStart><paginationEnd>273</paginationEnd><publisher>Springer</publisher><placeOfPublication/><issnPrint/><issnElectronic/><keywords/><publishedDay>31</publishedDay><publishedMonth>12</publishedMonth><publishedYear>2010</publishedYear><publishedDate>2010-12-31</publishedDate><doi>10.1007/978-1-84882-736-3_8</doi><url/><notes>In Formal Methods: State of the Art and New Directions (ed. Boca, Paul P.; Bowen, Jonathan P.; Siddiqi, Jawedd I.)</notes><college>COLLEGE NANME</college><department>Science and Engineering - Faculty</department><CollegeCode>COLLEGE CODE</CollegeCode><DepartmentCode>FGSEN</DepartmentCode><institution>Swansea University</institution><apcterm/><lastEdited>2013-10-17T15:27:30.4976595</lastEdited><Created>2012-02-23T17:02:03.0000000</Created><path><level id="1">Faculty of Science and Engineering</level><level id="2">School of Mathematics and Computer Science - Computer Science</level></path><authors><author><firstname>Peter</firstname><surname>Mosses</surname><orcid>0000-0002-5826-7520</orcid><order>1</order></author></authors><documents/><OutputDurs/></rfc1807>
spelling 2013-10-17T15:27:30.4976595 v2 8 2012-02-23 Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online 3f13b8ec315845c81d371f41e772399c 0000-0002-5826-7520 Peter Mosses Peter Mosses true false 2012-02-23 FGSEN <p>Since the middle of the twentieth century, hundreds of programming languages have been designed and implemented – and new ones are continually emerging. The syntax of a programming language can usually be described quite precisely and efficiently using formal grammars. However, the formal description of its semantics is much more challenging. Language designers, implementers and programmers commonly regard formal semantic descriptions as impractical. Research in semantics has allowed us to reason about software and has provided valuable insight into the design of programming languages, but few semantic descriptions of full languages have been published, and hardly any of these are currently available online.</p><p>One of the major approaches to formal semantics is denotational semantics, which originated from Strachey’s pioneering studies in the 1960s. Why is such a theoretically attractive approach generally regarded as impractical for describing full-scale programming languages? Does it help much to use monads in denotational descriptions, or is a more radical change needed? How might efficient online access to a repository of semantic descriptions be provided? Could it ever become as easy to generate efficient compilers and interpreters from semantic descriptions as it already is to generate parsers from grammars? This chapter addresses such questions and gives some grounds for optimism about the development of highly practical, online semantic descriptions.</p> Book chapter 249 273 Springer 31 12 2010 2010-12-31 10.1007/978-1-84882-736-3_8 In Formal Methods: State of the Art and New Directions (ed. Boca, Paul P.; Bowen, Jonathan P.; Siddiqi, Jawedd I.) COLLEGE NANME Science and Engineering - Faculty COLLEGE CODE FGSEN Swansea University 2013-10-17T15:27:30.4976595 2012-02-23T17:02:03.0000000 Faculty of Science and Engineering School of Mathematics and Computer Science - Computer Science Peter Mosses 0000-0002-5826-7520 1
title Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
spellingShingle Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
Peter Mosses
title_short Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
title_full Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
title_fullStr Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
title_full_unstemmed Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
title_sort Programming language description languages: From Christopher Strachey to semantics online
author_id_str_mv 3f13b8ec315845c81d371f41e772399c
author_id_fullname_str_mv 3f13b8ec315845c81d371f41e772399c_***_Peter Mosses
author Peter Mosses
author2 Peter Mosses
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container_start_page 249
publishDate 2010
institution Swansea University
doi_str_mv 10.1007/978-1-84882-736-3_8
publisher Springer
college_str Faculty of Science and Engineering
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hierarchy_parent_id facultyofscienceandengineering
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description <p>Since the middle of the twentieth century, hundreds of programming languages have been designed and implemented – and new ones are continually emerging. The syntax of a programming language can usually be described quite precisely and efficiently using formal grammars. However, the formal description of its semantics is much more challenging. Language designers, implementers and programmers commonly regard formal semantic descriptions as impractical. Research in semantics has allowed us to reason about software and has provided valuable insight into the design of programming languages, but few semantic descriptions of full languages have been published, and hardly any of these are currently available online.</p><p>One of the major approaches to formal semantics is denotational semantics, which originated from Strachey’s pioneering studies in the 1960s. Why is such a theoretically attractive approach generally regarded as impractical for describing full-scale programming languages? Does it help much to use monads in denotational descriptions, or is a more radical change needed? How might efficient online access to a repository of semantic descriptions be provided? Could it ever become as easy to generate efficient compilers and interpreters from semantic descriptions as it already is to generate parsers from grammars? This chapter addresses such questions and gives some grounds for optimism about the development of highly practical, online semantic descriptions.</p>
published_date 2010-12-31T03:02:44Z
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