Denotational semantics in Synthetic Guarded Domain Theory

Marco Paviotti

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


In functional programming, features such as recursion, recursive types and general references are central. To define semantics of this kind of languages one needs to come up with certain definitions which may be non-trivial to show well-defined. This is because they are circular. Domain theory has been used to solve this kind of problems for specific languages, unfortunately, this technique does not scale for more featureful languages, which prevented it from being widely used.

Step-indexing is a more general technique that has been used to break circularity of definitions. The idea is to tweak the definition by adding a well- founded structure that gives a handle for recursion. Guarded dependent Type Theory (gDTT) is a type theory which implements step-indexing via a unary modality used to guard recursive definitions. Every circular definition is well-defined as long as the recursive variable is guarded.

In this thesis we show that gDTT is a natural setting to give denotational semantics of typed functional programming languages with recursion and recursive types. We formulate operational semantics and denotational semantics and prove computational adequacy entirely inside the type theory. Furthermore, our interpretation is synthetic: types are interpreted as types in the type theory and programs as type-theoretical terms. Moreover, working directly in gDTT has advantages compared with existing set-theoretic models.

Finally, this work builds the foundations for doing denotational semantics of languages with much more challenging features, for example, of general references for which denotational techniques were previously beyond reach.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages143
ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-345-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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