Domain Theory for Concurrency

Mikkel Nygaard

November 2003


Concurrent computation can be given an abstract mathematical treatment very similar to that provided for sequential computation by domain theory and denotational semantics of Scott and Strachey.

A simple domain theory for concurrency is presented. Based on a categorical model of linear logic and associated comonads, it highlights the role of linearity in concurrent computation. Two choices of comonad yield two expressive metalanguages for higher-order processes, both arising from canonical constructions in the model. Their denotational semantics are fully abstract with respect to contextual equivalence.

One language, called HOPLA for Higher-Order Process LAnguage, derives from an exponential of linear logic. It can be viewed as an extension of the simply-typed lambda calculus with CCS-like nondeterministic sum and prefix operations, in which types express the form of computation path of which a process is capable. HOPLA can directly encode calculi like CCS, CCS with process passing, and mobile ambients with public names, and it can be given a straightforward operational semantics supporting a standard bisimulation congruence. The denotational and operational semantics are related with simple proofs of soundness and adequacy. Full abstraction implies that contextual equivalence coincides with logical equivalence for a fragment of Hennessy-Milner logic, linking up with simulation equivalence.

The other language is called Affine HOPLA and is based on a weakening comonad that yields a model of affine-linear logic. This language adds to HOPLA an interesting tensor operation at the price of linearity constraints on the occurrences of variables. The tensor can be understood as a juxtaposition of independent processes, and allows Affine HOPLA to encode processes of the kind found in treatments of nondeterministic dataflow.

The domain theory can be generalised to presheaf models, providing a more refined treatment of nondeterministic branching and supporting notions of bisimulation. The operational semantics for HOPLA is guided by the idea that derivations of transitions in the operational semantics should correspond to elements of the presheaf denotations. Similar guidelines lead to an operational semantics for the first-order fragment of Affine HOPLA. An extension of the operational semantics to the full language is based on a stable denotational semantics which associates to each computation the minimal input necessary for it. Such a semantics is provided, based on event structures; it agrees with the presheaf semantics at first order and exposes the tensor operation as a simple parallel composition of event structures.

The categorical model obtained from presheaves is very rich in structure and points towards more expressive languages than HOPLA and Affine HOPLA--in particular concerning extensions to cover independence models. The thesis concludes with a discussion of related work towards a fully fledged domain theory for concurrency.

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Last modified: 2004-03-29 by webmaster.