Functionality, Polymorphism, and Concurrency: A Mathematical Investigation of Programming Paradigms

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Selinger, Peter

The search for mathematical models of computational phenomena often leads to problems that are of independent mathematical interest. Selected problems of this kind are investigated in this thesis. First, we study models of the untyped lambda calculus. Although many familiar models are constructed by order-theoretic methods, it is also known that there are some models of the lambda calculus that cannot be non-trivially ordered. We show that the standard open and closed term algebras are unorderable. We characterize the absolutely unorderable T-algebras in any algebraic variety T. Here an algebra is called absolutely unorderable if it cannot be embedded in an orderable algebra. We then introduce a notion of finite models for the lambda calculus, contrasting the known fact that models of the lambda calculus, in the traditional sense, are always non-recursive. Our finite models are based on Plotkin’s syntactical models of reduction. We give a method for constructing such models, and some examples that show how finite models can yield useful information about terms. Next, we study models of typed lambda calculi. Models of the polymorphic lambda calculus can be divided into environment-style models, such as Bruce and Meyer’s non-strict set-theoretic models, and categorical models, such as Seely’s interpretation in PL-categories. Reynolds has shown that there are no set-theoretic strict models. Following a different approach, we investigate a notion of non-strict categorical models. These provide a uniform framework in which one can describe various classes of non-strict models, including set-theoretic models with or without empty types, and Kripke-style models. We show that completeness theorems correspond to categorical representation theorems, and we reprove a completeness result by Meyer et al. on set-theoretic models of the simply-typed lambda calculus with possibly empty types. Finally, we study properties of asynchronous communication in networks of communicating processes. We formalize several notions of asynchrony independently of any particular concurrent process paradigm. A process is asynchronous if its input and/or output is filtered through a communication medium, such as a buffer or a queue, possibly with feedback. We prove that the behavior of asynchronous processes can be equivalently characterized by first-order axioms.

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University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-97-17.
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