Is continuation-passing useful for data flow analysis? Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The widespread use of the continuation-passing style (CPS) transformation in compilers, optimizers, abstract interpreters, and partial evaluators reflects a common belief that the transformation has a positive effect on the analysis of programs. Investigations by Nielson [13] and Burn/Filho [5,6] support, to some degree, this belief with theoretical results. However, they do not pinpoint the source of increased abstract information and do not explain the observation of many people that continuation-passing confuses some conventional data flow analyses. To study the impact of the CPS transformation on program analysis, we derive three canonical data flow analyzers for the core of an applicative higher-order programming language. The first analyzer is based on a direct semantics of the language, the second on a continuation-semantics of the language, and the last on the direct semantics of CPS terms. All analyzers compute the control flow graph of the source program and hence our results apply to a large class of data flow analyses. A comparison of the information gathered by our analyzers establishes the following points: In view of these results, we argue that, in practice, a direct data flow analysis that relies on some amount of duplication would be as satisfactory as a CPS analysis.

publication date

  • June 1994