Operational semantics. Was: [Haskell-cafe] What unsafeInterleaveIO is unsafe

Bernie Pope bjpop at csse.unimelb.edu.au
Tue Mar 17 02:39:31 EDT 2009

On 17/03/2009, at 1:13 PM, Jonathan Cast wrote:

> [Totally OT tangent: How did operational semantics come to get its  
> noun?
> The more I think about it, the more it seems like a precís of the
> implementation, rather than a truly semantic part of a language
> specification.]

I haven't followed the whole thread, so perhaps I'm missing some  
important context to this question.

It is true that operational semantics are often used to summarise or  
explain an _implementation_ of a language feature, but I wouldn't say  
that they are always used in this way. An operational semantics may be  
used to define a "behaviour" function: (program x input) -> outcome.  
The big-step style of operational semantics style tends to be less  
like an implementation, and more like a specification. Perhaps the  
more crucial part of operational semantics is that it just deals with  
syntactic terms as its "values".

Apologies if this has nothing to do with your question.


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