A Theory of Name Resolution

Pierre Néron, Andrew P. Tolmach, Eelco Visser, Guido Wachsmuth. A Theory of Name Resolution. In Jan Vitek, editor, Programming Languages and Systems - 24th European Symposium on Programming, ESOP 2015, Held as Part of the European Joint Conferences on Theory and Practice of Software, ETAPS 2015, London, UK, April 11-18, 2015. Proceedings. Volume 9032 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 205-231, Springer, 2015. [doi]


We describe a language-independent theory for name binding and resolution, suitable for programming languages with complex scoping rules including both lexical scoping and modules. We formulate name resolution as a two-stage problem. First a language-independent scope graph is constructed using language-specific rules from an abstract syntax tree. Then references in the scope graph are resolved to corresponding declarations using a language-independent resolution process. We introduce a resolution calculus as a concise, declarative, and languageindependent specification of name resolution. We develop a resolution algorithm that is sound and complete with respect to the calculus. Based on the resolution calculus we develop language-independent definitions of α-equivalence and rename refactoring. We illustrate the approach using a small example language with modules. In addition, we show how our approach provides a model for a range of name binding patterns in existing languages.

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