Re: Formal semantics for C
I agree with most everything that has been said. As I usually summarize the
matter, "If you don't have memory safety as a foundation on which to build,
you're not going to get very far without sacrificing soundness."
But just to defend those "terrible" C-analyzers and C-optimizers that punt
on these important issues, they can be quite good at defining their (false)
assumptions clearly, simply, and concisely, which semanticists should agree
is a "good thing".
For example, you can define a quite low-level model of the heap and then
define your model's allocater such that:
* objects are never deallocated
* all objects are allocated infinitely far apart from each other
My point here is small, just that the issues can be skirted in a precise
way. The model remains inaccurate.
Matthias Felleisen wrote:
> [----- The Types Forum, http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/types -----]
> Corky has made the most important points.
> My conjecture is that you probably didn't mean "non-deterministic" but
> indeterminate. Perhaps you're trying to say that all unsafe operations
> should be bottom (denotationally speaking), since we have no
> information about them. This, however, would be a bad mistake that was
> made in the early history of the full abstraction problem. When you
> computation is erroneous, there is information. (You may not like it,
> but it is not absence of information, as bottom would make you think.)
> [See the papers that Corky and I wrote on full abstraction for
> sequential higher-order languages.]
> In C's case the real problem is that you don't even know when to
> specify that your semantics is unspecified without going through an
> extreme detour. Just think about how you would specify that an array
> access is out of bounds. When the array is passed to a procedure, you
> typically don't even have access to its bound. If you do, what exactly
> are you going to say?
> -- Matthias
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