Reusable Components of Semantic Specifications

  • Martin Churchill
  • Peter D. MossesEmail author
  • Neil Sculthorpe
  • Paolo Torrini
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8989)


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: a component-based semantics for Caml Light. We have tested the correctness of the semantics by running programs on an interpreter generated from the semantics, comparing the output with that produced on the standard implementation of the language.

Our approach provides good modularity, facilitates reuse, and should support co-evolution of languages and their formal semantics. It could be particularly useful in connection with domain-specific languages and language-driven software development.


Modularity Reusability Component-based semantics Fundamental constructs Funcons Modular SOS 



Thanks to Erik Ernst and the anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions for improvement. The reported work was supported by EPSRC grant (EP/I032495/1) to Swansea University for the PLanCompS project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Churchill
    • 1
  • Peter D. Mosses
    • 2
    Email author
  • Neil Sculthorpe
    • 2
  • Paolo Torrini
    • 2
  1. 1.Google, Inc.LondonUK
  2. 2.PLanCompS ProjectSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK

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