Modularity in Meta-Languages

Peter D. Mosses

December 2000


A meta-language for semantics has a high degree of modularity when descriptions of individual language constructs can be formulated independently using it, and do not require reformulation when new constructs are added to the described language. The quest for modularity in semantic meta-languages has been going on for more than two decades.

Here, most of the main meta-languages for operational, denotational, and hybrid styles of semantics are compared regarding their modularity. A simple bench-mark is used: describing the semantics of a pure functional language, then extending the described language with references, exceptions, and concurrency constructs. For each style of semantics, at least one of the considered meta-languages appears to provide a high degree of modularity.

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