Denotational semantics

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In computer science, denotational semantics is an approach to formalizing the meanings of programming languages by constructing mathematical objects (called denotations) which describe the meanings of expressions from the languages. Other approaches to providing a formal semantics of programming languages include axiomatic semantics and operational semantics.

Broadly speaking, denotational semantics is concerned with finding mathematical objects called domains that represent what programs do. For example, programs (or program phrases) might be represented by partial functions, or by Actor event diagram scenarios, or by games between the environment and the system: these are all general examples of domains.

An important tenet of denotational semantics is that semantics should be compositional: the denotation of a program phrase should be built out of the denotations of its subphrases.

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