I would like to have a good conceptual understanding of the semantics of programming languages: operational-, denotational-, axiomatic-, categorical-.

Is there a good (standard?) textbook for this?

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    – Raphael
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:52
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    – Raphael
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


There are many depending on where you want to start and what exactly you want. Usually textbook start with giving semantics to the While or IMP language and then give references to semantics of lambda calculus (typed untyped) unless you are reading Gunter. I am listing down a few below that I have referenced a number of times:

  1. Operational Denotational and Axiomatic:

    a. Formal Semantics of Programming languages by Wynskell

    b. Programming Language Foundations by Stump

    c. Theories of programming languages by Reynolds

  2. Denotational semantics: Denotational Semantics by Stoy

  3. Denotational and Categorical semantics: Semantics of Programming languages by Gunter
  4. Categorical semantics: Category theory for computing science by Barr and Wells
  5. Mostly operational semantics (may be with types involved):

    a. Types and Programming languages

    b. Semantics Enginnering with PLT redux

See also this question and this question on stackexchange. and this further reading section of wikipedia article

  • $\begingroup$ A list of titles is mostly useless; Google will do a better job on any given day. Why, specifically, do you recommend either book? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed a list is mostly useless and each of of the books have some merits over the others depending on what the author is well versed with. Generally speaking, the answer to why a book is better than other mostly opinion based and not very objective due to the style of the writer, relatable examples for the reader etc. In my case, as i have mentioned in the answer, these are the ones that I have used and referenced and find them helpful in answering my doubts. $\endgroup$
    – Apoorv
    Jan 9, 2020 at 19:15

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