Programming Languages

Back to Direct Style: Typed and Tight

by Marius Müller, Philipp Schuster, Jonathan Immanuel Brachthäuser, and Klaus Ostermann

In Proc. Int’l Conf. Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications (OOPSLA). ACM Press, 2023.

This publication is related to the Effects research project.


Translating programs into continuation-passing style is a well-studied tool to explicitly deal with the control structure of programs. This is useful, for example, for compilation. In a typed setting, there also is a logical interpretation of such a translation as an embedding of classical logic into intuitionistic logic. A naturally arising question is whether there is an inverse translation back to direct style. The answer to this question depends on how the continuation-passing translation is defined and on the domain of the inverse translation. In general, translating programs from continuation-passing style back to direct style requires the use of control operators to account for the use of continuations in non-trivial ways. We present two languages, one in direct style and one in continuation-passing style. Both languages are typed and equipped with an abstract machine semantics. Moreover, both languages allow for non-trivial control flow. We further present a translation to continuation-passing style and a translation back to direct style. We show that both translations are type-preserving and also preserve semantics in a very precise way giving an operational correspondence between the two languages. Moreover, we show that the compositions of the translations are well-behaved. In particular, they are syntactic one-sided inverses on the full language and full syntactic inverses when restricted to trivial control flow.