Exploration of language specifications helps to discover errors and inconsistencies early during the development of a programming language. We propose exploration of language specifications via application of existing automated first-order theorem provers (ATPs). To this end, we translate language specifications and exploration tasks to first-order logic, which many ATPs accept as input. However, there are several different strategies for compiling a language specification to first-order logic, and even small variations in the translation may have a large impact on the time it takes ATPs to find proofs. In this paper, we first present a systematic empirical study on how to best compile language specifications to first-order logic such that existing ATPs can solve typical exploration tasks efficiently. We have developed a compiler product line that implements 36 different compilation strategies and used it to feed language specifications to 4 existing first-order theorem provers. As benchmarks, we developed language specifications for typed SQL and for a Questionnaire Language (QL), with 50 exploration goals each. Our study empirically confirms that the choice of a compilation strategy greatly influences prover performance in general and shows which strategies are advantageous for prover performance. Second, we extend our empirical study with 4 domain-specific strategies for axiom selection and find that axiom selection does not influence prover performance in our benchmark specifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-172
Number of pages27
JournalScience of Computer Programming
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Declarative languages, Domain-specific languages, First-order theorem proving, Formal specification, Type systems

ID: 45517371