[Haskell-cafe] Denotational semantics for the lay man.

caseyh at istar.ca caseyh at istar.ca
Mon Jan 17 20:16:59 CET 2011

You probably want to bring up other forms of semantics.

Axiomatic semantics:
Makes no distinction between a phrase's meaning and the logical  
formulas that describe it; its meaning is exactly what can be proven  
about it in some logic.

Operational semantics:
The execution of the language is described directly (rather than by  
Operational semantics loosely corresponds to "interpretation".
Can be defined via syntactic transformations on phrases of the  
language itself.

Denotational semantics:
each phrase in the language is translated into a denotation, i.e. a  
phrase in some other language. Denotational semantics loosely  
corresponds to "compilation", although the "target language" is  
usually a mathematical formalism rather than another computer language.

Above from Wikipedia.

Quoting David Sankel <camior at gmail.com>:

> Hello All,
> I've recently had the opportunity to explain in prose what denotational
> semantics are to a person unfamiliar with it. I was trying to get across the
> concept of distilling the essence out of some problem domain. I wasn't able
> to get the idea across so I'm looking for some simple ways to explain it.
> Does anyone know of a way to explain what's the meaning and objective of
> "distilling the essence" without introducing more jargon. One thing that
> comes to mind is how Newton's equations for gravity were a distillation of
> the essence of the way things fall.
> Thanks in advance,
> David
> --
> David Sankel
> Sankel Software
> www.sankelsoftware.com

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