Semantics of Programming Languages

5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 1DL311

A revised version of the syllabus is available.
Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Computer Science G2F
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with credit (4), Pass with distinction (5)
Finalised by
The Faculty Board of Science and Technology, 30 August 2018
Responsible department
Department of Information Technology

Entry requirements

60 credits in mathematics and computer science, including courses in algebra, logic, a second programming course and programming in at least one functional and one imperative language.

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).