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[ontolog-forum] syntax vs semantics

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 13:22:37 +0700
Message-id: <c09b00eb0902102222h33204c4fg2ad8125c4b595902@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Since it seems relevant , and since  semantics depends on syntax, I share snippets from the following resource for further discussion


"Though it may be difficult to draw the line accurately between syntax and
semantics, we hold that issues normally dealt with from the static text should
be called syntax, and those that involve a program's behavior during execution
be called semantics. Therefore we consider syntax to have two components:
the context-fr ee syntax defined by a BNF specification and the context-
sensitive syntax consisting of context conditions or constraints that
legal programs must obey. "


"The concepts and terminology for describing the syntax of languages derives
from Noam Chomsky's seminal work in the 1950s—for example, [Chomsky56]
and [Chomsky59]. His classification of grammars and the related theory has
been adopted for the study of programming languages. Most of this material
falls into the area of the theory of computation. For additional material, see
[Hopcroft79] and [Martin91]. These books and many others contain results
on the expressiveness and limitations of the classes of grammars and on
derivations, derivation trees, and syntactic ambiguity.
John Backus and Peter Naur defined BNF in conjunction with the group that
developed Algol60. The report [Naur63] describing Algol syntax using BNF is
still one of the clearest presentations of a programming language, although
the semantics is given informally.
Most books on compiler writing contain extensive discussions of syntax specification,
derivation trees, and parsing. These books sometimes confuse the
notions of concrete and abstract syntax, but they usually contain extensive
examples of lexical and syntactic analysis. We recommend [Aho86] and [Parsons92].
Compiler writers typically disagree with our distinction between syntax
and semantics, putting context constraints with semantics under the
name static semantics. Our view that static semantics is an oxymoron is
supported by [Meek90].
Abstract syntax was first described by John McCarthy in the context of Lisp
[McCarthy65a]. More material on abstract syntax and other issues pertaining
to the syntax of programming languages can be found in various textbooks
on formal syntax and semantics, including [Watt91] and [Meyer90].
The book by Roland Backhouse concentrates exclusively on the syntax of
programming languages [Backhouse79]."

Paola Di Maio

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