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On inter-deriving small-step and big-step semantics: A case study for storeless call-by-need evaluation

Theoretical Computer Science, vol. 435 (2012), pp. 21-42


Starting from the standard call-by-need reduction for the λ-calculus that is common to Ariola, Felleisen, Maraist, Odersky, and Wadler, we inter-derive a series of hygienic semantic artifacts: a reduction-free storeless abstract machine, a continuation-passing evaluation function, and what appears to be the first heapless natural semantics for call-by-need evaluation. Furthermore we observe that the evaluation function implementing this natural semantics is in defunctionalized form. The refunctionalized counterpart of this evaluation function implements an extended direct semantics in the sense of Cartwright and Felleisen.

Overall, the semantic artifacts presented here are simpler than many other such artifacts that have been independently worked out, and which require ingenuity, skill, and independent soundness proofs on a case-by-case basis. They are also simpler to inter-derive because the inter-derivational tools (e.g., refocusing and defunctionalization) already exist.

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