Reusable Components of Semantic Specifications

By Martin Churchill, Peter D. Mosses and Paolo Torrini



Semantic specifications of programming languages typically have poor modularity. This hinders reuse of parts of the semantics of one language when specifying a different language – even when the two languages have many constructs in common – and evolution of a language may require major reformulation of its semantics. Such drawbacks have discouraged language developers from using formal semantics to document their designs.

In the PLanCompS project, we have developed a component-based approach to semantics. Here, we explain its modularity aspects, and present an illustrative case study. Our approach provides good modularity, facilitates reuse, and supports co-evolution of languages and their formal semantics. It could be particularly useful in connection with domain-specific languages and language-driven software development.

Presented at Modularity’14, 22–25 April 2014, Lugano, Switzerland.

Note: A revised and extended version of this paper has since been published in Transactions on Aspect-Oriented Software Development XII.

Accompanying material