Section: Research Program
Semantics plays a central role in verification since it always serves as a basis to express the properties of interest, that need to be verified, but also additional properties, required to prove the properties of interest, or which may make the design of static analysis easier.
For instance, if we aim for a static analysis that should prove the absence of runtime error in some class of programs, the concrete semantics should define properly what error states and non error states are, and how program executions step from a state to the next one. In the case of a language like C, this includes the behavior of floating point operations as defined in the IEEE 754 standard. When considering parallel programs, this includes a model of the scheduler, and a formalization of the memory model.
In addition to the properties that are required to express the proof of the property of interest, it may also be desirable that semantics describe program behaviors in a finer manner, so as to make static analyses easier to design. For instance, it is well known that, when a state property (such as the absence of runtime error) is valid, it can be established using only a state invariant (i.e., an invariant that ignores the order in which states are visited during program executions). Yet searching for trace invariants (i.e., that take into account some properties of program execution history) may make the static analysis significantly easier, as it will allow it to make finer case splits, directed by the history of program executions. To allow for such powerful static analyses, we often resort to a non standard semantics, which incorporates properties that would normally be left out of the concrete semantics.