Implementing formal definitions: projects 2 (Greg Michaelson)
Mon, 7 Feb 1994 13:58:26 GMT

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Implementing formal definitions: projects 2 (1994-02-07)
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Newsgroups: comp.compilers
From: (Greg Michaelson)
Keywords: semantics
Organization: Dept of Comp & Elec Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Scotland
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 1994 13:58:26 GMT

Another project description from Europe: the ASF+SDF Meta-Environment
at CWI in Amsterdam, Holland.
                                                          Greg Michaelson
The ASF+SDF Meta-Environment:
A tool for executing algebraic language definitions.

To allow for programming environments (integrated collections of tools)
that are both easy to obtain and provably correct, it is investigated
how tools can be generated from algebraic specifications of programming
languages. The ASF+SDF formalism combines the elder "Algebraic Specification
Formalism" with the "Syntax Definition Formalism".
The formalism supports modularization, conditional equations (both
positive and negative), and built-in associative lists.
The formalism is suited to provide specifications for arbitrary
abstract data types (traditional algebraic specification), as well as
definitions of any (formal) language (e.g. programming, query, text-processing,
specification, etc.).

The ASF+SDF Meta-environment, has been built around the ASF+SDF formalism.
It allows for rapid prototyping of ASF+SDF specifications.
Parsers are geneated from the signatures, and term rewriting systems
from the equations. Terms can be edited using syntax-
directed editors. Equational specifications of static semantics, dynamic
semantics, equivalence with other languages, transformations, ... can be
executed as TRSs thus providing type checkers, interpreters, compilers,
optimizers etc. It is possible to attach specified functionality to
user-interface events such as mouse-clicks, buttons, etc.
The ASF+SDF Meta-environment has an incremental implementation; if the
specification is changed the prototyped tools are adapted rather than
regenerated from scratch. This supports inter-active developing and testing
of specifications.

The system is still under development, but stable enough for external use.
A tape with the system is available (email
There is an annotated bibliography list of abstracts of papers and
publications of the ASF+SDF group. This abstract list can be obtained
by ftp to "", directory "pub/gipe". In this directory also
electronic versions of several reports can be found.

[1] J.A. Bergstra, J. Heering, and P. Klint. ``Algebraic Specification''.
          The ACM Press in Cooperation with Addison-Wesley, 1989.
[2] A. van Deursen. ``Specification and Generation of a $\lambda$-calculus
          Environment''. CWI, technical report CS-R9233. Available by ftp from
, as pub/gipe/
[2] P. Klint, ``A meta-environment for generating progrmaming environments''.
          ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology 2(2):176-201,

Arie van Deursen ( Tel. 31 20 5924007, Fax. 31 20 5924199
CWI, P.O. Box 94079, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


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