Syllabus for Semantics of Programming Languages

Semantik för programmeringsspråk


  • 5 credits
  • Course code: 1DL311
  • Education cycle: First cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Computer Science G2F

    Explanation of codes

    The code indicates the education cycle and in-depth level of the course in relation to other courses within the same main field of study according to the requirements for general degrees:

    First cycle

    • G1N: has only upper-secondary level entry requirements
    • G1F: has less than 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G1E: contains specially designed degree project for Higher Education Diploma
    • G2F: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G2E: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements, contains degree project for Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science
    • GXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

    Second cycle

    • A1N: has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1F: has second-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (60 credits)
    • A2E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (120 credits)
    • AXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with credit (4), Pass with distinction (5)
  • Established: 2013-03-21
  • Established by:
  • Revised: 2022-10-17
  • Revised by: The Faculty Board of Science and Technology
  • Applies from: Autumn 2023
  • Entry requirements:

    60 credits in mathematics and computer science, including Algebra I, Logic and Proof Techniques I, a second programming course and programming in at least one functional and one imperative language.

  • Responsible department: Department of Information Technology

Learning outcomes

The aim of semantic descriptions is to give an exact definition of the implication of a programming language without uncertainties or ambiguities. This is useful when designing programs that use other programs as data, e.g. compilers, but also for programmers for reference.

On completion of the course, the student should be able to:

  • explain and apply formal semantic descriptions of programming languages and other formal languages, particularly in operational semantics.
  • construct simple semantic descriptions in operational semantics, and
  • apply methods to prove basic properties of semantic descriptions.


Use of formal semantics. Overview of semantic methods (operational, denotational and axiomatic semantics). Properties of semantic descriptions. Compositionality and structural induction. Structural operational semantics. Natural semantics.

Techniques for describing the operational semantics of programming language constructs. Applications of operational semantics.


Lectures, lessons and seminars. Labs may occur.


The course is examined by oral and written examination spread throughout the course and active participation in seminars.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the disability coordinator of the university.

Other directives

The course cannot be included in a degree together with the course Semantics and principles of programming languages (2AD514, 2AD516).

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: Autumn 2023

Some titles may be available electronically through the University library.

  • Nielson, Hanne Riis; Nielson, Flemming Semantics with applications : an appetizer

    London: Springer, 2007

    Find in the library


The book is also available electronically.

  • Nielson, Hanne Riis.; Nielson, Flemming. Semantics with applications: an appetizer

    London: Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2007

    Find in the library