Type-omega DPLs

Unknown author (2001-10-16)

Type-omega DPLs (Denotational Proof Languages) are languages for proof presentation and search that offer strong soundness guarantees. LCF-type systems such as HOL offer similar guarantees, but their soundness relies heavily on static type systems. By contrast, DPLs ensure soundness dynamically, through their evaluation semantics; no type system is necessary. This is possible owing to a novel two-tier syntax that separates deductions from computations, and to the abstraction of assumption bases, which is factored into the semantics of the language and allows for sound evaluation. Every type-omega DPL properly contains a type-alpha DPL, which can be used to present proofs in a lucid and detailed form, exclusively in terms of primitive inference rules. Derived inference rules are expressed as user-defined methods, which are "proof recipes" that take arguments and dynamically perform appropriate deductions. Methods arise naturally via parametric abstraction over type-alpha proofs. In that light, the evaluation of a method call can be viewed as a computation that carries out a type-alpha deduction. The type-alpha proof "unwound" by such a method call is called the "certificate" of the call. Certificates can be checked by exceptionally simple type-alpha interpreters, and thus they are useful whenever we wish to minimize our trusted base. Methods are statically closed over lexical environments, but dynamically scoped over assumption bases. They can take other methods as arguments, they can iterate, and they can branch conditionally. These capabilities, in tandem with the bifurcated syntax of type-omega DPLs and their dynamic assumption-base semantics, allow the user to define methods in a style that is disciplined enough to ensure soundness yet fluid enough to permit succinct and perspicuous expression of arbitrarily sophisticated derived inference rules. We demonstrate every major feature of type-omega DPLs by defining and studying NDL-omega, a higher-order, lexically scoped, call-by-value type-omega DPL for classical zero-order natural deduction---a simple choice that allows us to focus on type-omega syntax and semantics rather than on the subtleties of the underlying logic. We start by illustrating how type-alpha DPLs naturally lead to type-omega DPLs by way of abstraction; present the formal syntax and semantics of NDL-omega; prove several results about it, including soundness; give numerous examples of methods; point out connections to the lambda-phi calculus, a very general framework for type-omega DPLs; introduce a notion of computational and deductive cost; define several instrumented interpreters for computing such costs and for generating certificates; explore the use of type-omega DPLs as general programming languages; show that DPLs do not have to be type-less by formulating a static Hindley-Milner polymorphic type system for NDL-omega; discuss some idiosyncrasies of type-omega DPLs such as the potential divergence of proof checking; and compare type-omega DPLs to other approaches to proof presentation and discovery. Finally, a complete implementation of NDL-omega in SML-NJ is given for users who want to run the examples and experiment with the language.