Matching Logic

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What is Matching Logic?

For programming language semanticists:

Matching logic is a unifying foundational logic for programming languages, specification, verification. It serves as the foundation of the K framework: a formal language framework where all programming languages must have a formal semantics and all language tools are automatically generated by the framework from the semantics at no additional costs, in a correct-by-construction manner.

Traditionally, concrete behaviors of programs are defined by operational semantics, while the properties of them are specified and proved using axiomatic semantics, such as Hoare logic. Unfortunately, axiomatic semantics of real languages are rather complex, so correctness proofs are necessary in order to trust the proven properties. Moreover, such proofs have to be maintained as the language changes, which is generally perceived as a burden. Ideally, we would like to have only one reference language semantics, which are used for both deriving program behaviors and verifying programs.

Matching logic allows us to regard a programming language through both operational and axiomatic lenses at the same time, making no distinction between the two. The semantics of a programming language is given in matching logic as a set of rewrite rules. Both operational behaviors and formal properties of a program are derived using the language-independent proof system of matching logic. That is, we use the same proof system to reason about all programming languages, which is different from the classic axiomatic semantics approach where different languages require their own set of proof rules (see, e.g., Hoare logic rules for a set of proof rules that were designed specifically for a simple imperative language). In conclusion, one matching logic semantics fulfills the roles of both operational and axiomatic semantics in a uniform manner.

One of the key observations made by matching logic is that program states can be represented as algebraic datatypes called configurations. A configuration contains all information of the program state, such as its current computation (i.e. the program/code), its computing context (e.g., environments, heaps, etc.), input and output buffer, and many others. Program configurations can be matched by (configuration) patterns, which are matching logic formulas with variables and constraints. A rewrite rule of a matching logic semantics has the form lhs => rhs where lhs and rhs are patterns. It specifies that all configurations matching lhs should rewrite to the configurations matching rhs, in one computation step. In this way, matching logic defines the formal semantics of a programming language by defining the set of all its configurations and then defining a transition system over the configurations using rewrite rules.

For logicians:

Matching logic is a powerful extension of the normal modal logic with many-sorted universes, many-sorted modalities, first-order logic (FOL) quantifiers ∀ and ∃, and the least fixpoint μ-binder. Many logics/calculi/models, especially those important in the study of programming languages, can be defined as theories in matching logic.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the logics/calculi/models that are definable in matching logic:
  • First-order logic (FOL) and its extension with least fixpoints;
  • Modal logic variants and extensions, in particular, modal μ-logic and hybrid logic;
  • Temporal logics such as linear temporal logic (LTL) and computation tree logic (CTL);
  • Dynamic logic;
  • Hoare logic, which is the foundation of most existing state-of-the-art program verifiers;
  • Reachability logic, which is the foundation of language-independent program verification that is implemented by the K framework;
  • Separation logic and its extension with recursive definitions;
  • Equational and rewriting logic;
  • Many-sorted and order-sorted algebras;
  • Complex type structures such as polymorphic types, function types, and dependent types;
  • λ-calculus;
  • Pure type systems;

The diagram above on the right depicts the relationship among these logics/calculi/models, where arrows mean "is subsumed by" or "can be defined in". The box labeled "Matching Logic" denotes ML (without fixpoints); the one labeled "Matching μ-logic" denotes MmL; the one labeled "Applicative Matching Logic" denotes AML. The node labeled "K" denotes the current implementation of K, which builds upon ML and automates a fragment of RL reasoning. The big bidirectional dotted arrow between K and AML means our ultimate goal to leverage K to the same level as MmL.

Getting Started

Matching logic is the result of a continuous 20-year effort in finding a foundation logic for formal language frameworks, such as K, and has led to dozens of research papers, listed in Publications. Here, we select some milestone papers for starters, discuss the ongoing projects and open problems, and review some earlier papers that compare matching logic with the classic Hoare-style program verification.

Core publications

  • A comprehensive in-depth survey paper of the mathematical foundations of matching logic. The paper discusses the motivation of matching logic and its usage in K, defines its syntax and semantics, shows that many logics can be defined as theories, including FOL, modal logic S5, and separation logic, and proposes a sound and complete proof system. Note that the paper only considers the fragment without the least fixpoint μ-binder, which we denote as ML to avoid confusion with the full matching logic with fixpoints.
Matching logic 
Grigore Rosu
LMCS, Volume 13(4), pp 1-61. 2017
PDF, project, DOI, LMCS, BIB

  • The canonical paper that proposes matching logic in its full generality that includes fixpoints, called matching μ-logic and denoted as MmL. The paper extends ML with the μ-binder, and shows that more logics can be defined in it as theories, including FOL with least fixpoints, modal μ-logic and its temporal/dynamic logic fragments, separation logic with recursive definitions (see the technical report version), and reachability logic. The paper also proposes a more general proof system for MmL.
Matching mu-Logic 
Xiaohong Chen and Grigore Rosu
LICS'19. 2019. To appear
PDF, Matching Logic, LICS'19, BIB

  • An alternative presentation of MmL, but with a lot of simplification. This new presentation is called applicative matching logic, denoted as AML. AML eliminates the many-sorted universes and infrastructures from MmL, keeping only one binary symbol called application that applies its first argument to its second. AML is the result of our attempt in making the foundational logic of K minimal, without losing any expressive and reasoning power of MmL. The paper proposes an elegant way to deal with multiple sort universes and additionally shows that many-sorted and order-sorted algebras, λ-calculus, pure type systems, and K are all definable as theories.
Applicative Matching Logic 
Xiaohong Chen and Grigore Rosu
Technical Report, July 2019
PDF, Matching Logic, DOI, BIB

Open problems

See Open Problems.

Publications that compare with Hoare-style verification

The following set of papers discusses how the classic Hoare logic for program verification is subsumed by reachability logic (shortened RL) for language-independent verification. Since RL is proved to be subsumed in matching logic in the MmL paper, Hore-style verification is just a special instance of matching logic reasoning.

  • A summary of the RL-style language-independent program verification and its use in practice
A Language-Independent Program Verification Framework 
Xiaohong Chen and Grigore Rosu
ISoLA'18, Springer, pp 92-102. 2018
PDF, Slides(PPTX), DOI, ISoLA'18, BIB

  • A language-independent proof system for all-path reachability, with soundness and relative completeness proofs
All-Path Reachability Logic 
Andrei Stefanescu and Stefan Ciobaca and Radu Mereuta and Brandon Moore and Traian Florin Serbanuta and Grigore Rosu
RTA'14, LNCS 8560, pp 425-440. 2014
PDF, Slides(PPTX), Matching Logic, DOI, RTA'14, BIB

  • A language-independent proof system for one-path reachability which supports semantics given with conditional rules (big-step and small-step), with soundness and relative completeness proofs
One-Path Reachability Logic 
Grigore Rosu and Andrei Stefanescu and Stefan Ciobaca and Brandon Moore
LICS'13, IEEE, pp 358-367. 2013
PDF, Slides(PPTX), Reachability Logic, LICS'13, BIB

  • A language-independent program verification framework, including the MatchC verifier:
Checking Reachability using Matching Logic 
Grigore Rosu and Andrei Stefanescu
OOPSLA'12, ACM, pp 555-574. 2012
PDF, Slides(PPTX), Slides(PDF), Matching Logic, DOI, OOPSLA'12, BIB

  • The relationship to Hoare logic, including a mechanical translation of Hoare logic proofs into matching logic proofs:
From Hoare Logic to Matching Logic Reachability 
Grigore Rosu and Andrei Stefanescu
FM'12, LNCS 7436, pp 387-402. 2012
PDF, Slides(PPTX), Slides(PDF), Matching Logic, DOI, FM'12, BIB

See also the K and Matching Logic webpage at UIUC, which contains slides and an interview.

Download and Online Interface

We have implemented a proof-of-concept matching logic verifier for a fragment of C, called MatchC.

  • Online-sm.JPG --- This link provides an online interface to running MatchC
  • Download --- We recommend to first try it online (see the link above)

We have formalized the proof system in Coq, including the soundness proof and applications. The Coq latest files are available here.

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