Circular expressions: elimination of static environments

Ravi Sethi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Consider the connection between denotational semantics for a language with goto statements and flow diagrams for programs in such a language. The main point of interest is that the denotational semantics uses a recursively defined environment to give the meaning of labels, while a flow diagram merely has a jump to the appropriate program point. A simple reduction called "indirection elimination" strips away the environment from the denotational semantics and extracts an expression with cycles that is very close to the flow diagram of a program. The same idea applies to associating bodies with recursive procedures, or to any construct whose semantics is not wedded to the syntax. In addition to being a useful data structure and conceptual device, expressions with cycles are well defined mathematical objects-their semantics can be given by unfolding them into infinite structures that have been well studied. The practicality of the elimination of environments has been tested by constructing a trial implementation, which serves as the front end of a semantics directed compiler generator. The implementation takes a denotational semantics of a language and constructs a "black box" that maps programs in the language into an intermediate representation. The intermediate representation is a circular expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-222
Number of pages20
JournalScience of Computer Programming
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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