DD2457 Program Semantics and Analysis 6.0 credits

Programsemantik och programanalys

To give a semantics for a programming language means to give a precise definition of the behaviour of programs written in this language. Once the semantics of the language has been described formally, one can go about and prove various language properties like determinism, prove correctness of program implementations based on abstract machines, justify various program analyses used in syntax-oriented editors and program transformations used in optimising compilers, and specify and prove correctness of concrete programs. This provides the formal basis for a variety of software tools for program analysis, optimisation and verification.

  • Educational level

    Second cycle
  • Academic level (A-D)

  • Subject area

  • Grade scale

    A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Course offerings

Spring 19 semant19 for programme students

Intended learning outcomes

The overall aim of the course is to study the main semantic styles used for capturing the meaning of programs in a formal way, namely operational semantics, denotational semantics and axiomatic semantics, compare their strengths and weaknesses, and use these semantics for program analysis, optimisation and verification, both in theory and as a basis for software tools.

The successful student will be able to perform constructions such as:

* Construct the state space of a program as a basis for program behaviour analysis through state space exploration.

* Translate programs to abstract machine code, and execute the latter.

* Compute the denotation of a program.

* As above, but in abstract domains.

* Extend a programming language with new language features, and extend its semantics and abstract machine implementations accordingly.

* Suggest and justify program transformations supported by a suitable program analysis.

* Specify and verify programs in Hoare logic.

* Generate verification conditions from a program with annotated while loops.

as well as be able to formally establish results such as:

* Relate different semantic styles.

* Prove language properties such as determinism and termination.

* Show correctness of a given program transformation by proving equivalence of the original and the transformed program.

* Show properties of a given semantics.

For passing the course, a student has to demonstrate proficiency with problems of the first type; for the highest grade he/she has to be equally proficient at the remaining types of problems.

Course main content

* Part I. Operational Semantics and Language Implementation: natural semantics, structural operational semantics, abstract machines, correctness of language implementation.

* Part II. Denotational Semantics and Program Analysis: denotational semantics, fixed-point theory, program analysis and transformation.

* Part III. Axiomatic Semantics and Program Verification: axiomatic semantics, program specification and verification, weakest pre-conditions, verification condition generation.


Single course students:

DD1337 Programming, DD1338 Algorithms and Data Structures, SF1630 Discrete Mathematics, DD1350 Logic for Computer Scienceor corresponding courses.

Recommended prerequisites

5B1118/SF1610 Discrete Mathematics, mandatory and 5B1928/SF1642 Logic, recommended


Nielson and Nielson "Semantics with Applications: An Appetizer", Springer-Verlag, 2007, ISBN: 978-1-84628-691-9.


  • HEM1 - Exercises, 2.0, grade scale: P, F
  • LAB1 - Laboratory Work, 2.0, grade scale: P, F
  • TEN1 - Examination, 2.0, grade scale: A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

In this course all the regulations of the code of honor at the School of Computer science and Communication apply, see: http://www.kth.se/csc/student/hederskodex/1.17237?l=en_UK.

Requirements for final grade

* LAB1 - Laboratory work, 2,0 hp, grade: Pass/fail

* HEM1 - Exercises, 2,0 hp, grade: Pass/fail

* TEN1 - Examination, 2,0 hp, grade: A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Offered by

CSC/Theoretical Computer Science


Dilian Gurov, e-post: dilian@kth.se, 790 8198


Dilian Gurov <dilian@kth.se>

Supplementary information

This course is given for the first time 09/10 and is planned to be given every second year.


Course syllabus valid from: Autumn 2016.
Examination information valid from: Autumn 2009.