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Challenges for semantic description: Comparing responses from the main approaches

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Cliff Jones, Dr Troy AstarteORCiD



This is the final published version of a report that has been published in its final definitive form by School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Although there are thousands of programming languages, many of them share common features. This paper reviews some key underlying language concepts and the challenges they present to the task of formal semantic description. Most material concerns the responses in operational, axiomatic and denotational approaches to the description of programming languages. There are interesting overlaps between the responses of these main approaches to the challenges posed by the language concepts: these similarities are exposed even where accidental details often disguise them; essential differences are also pinpointed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jones CB, Astarte TK

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: School of Computing Science Technical Report Series

Year: 2017

Pages: 47

Print publication date: 01/11/2017

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Report Number: 1516

Institution: School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Place Published: Newcastle upon Tyne