Abstract Interpreters for Free
In small-step abstract interpretations, the concrete and abstract semantics bear an uncanny resemblance. In this work, we present an analysis-design methodology that both explains and exploits that resemblance. Specifically, we present a two-step method to convert a small-step concrete semantics into a family of sound, computable abstract interpretations. The first step re-factors the concrete state-space to eliminate recursive structure; this refactoring of the state-space simultaneously determines a store-passing-style transformation on the underlying concrete semantics. The second step uses inference rules to generate an abstract state-space and a Galois connection simultaneously. The Galois connection allows the calculation of the “optimal” abstract interpretation. The two-step process is unambiguous, but nondeterministic: at each step, analysis designers face choices. Some of these choices ultimately influence properties such as flow-, field- and context-sensitivity. Thus, under the method, we can give the emergence of these properties a graph-theoretic characterization. To illustrate the method, we systematically abstract the continuation-passing style lambda calculus to arrive at two distinct families of analyses. The first is the well-known k-CFA family of analyses. The second consists of novel “environment-centric” abstract interpretations, none of which appear in the literature on static analysis of higher-order programs.
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