A Domain-Theoretic Approach to Statistical Programming Languages

by   Jean Goubault-Larrecq, et al.

We give a domain-theoretic semantics to a statistical programming language, using the plain old category of dcpos, in contrast to some more sophisticated recent proposals. Remarkably, our monad of minimal valuations is commutative, which allows for program transformations that permute the order of independent random draws, as one would expect. A similar property is not known for Jones and Plotkin' s monad of continuous valuations. Instead of working with true real numbers, we work with exact real arithmetic, providing a bridge towards possible implementations. (Implementations by themselves are not addressed here.) Rather remarkably, we show that restricting ourselves to minimal valuations does not restrict us much: all measures on the real line can be modeled by minimal valuations on the domain 𝐈ℝ_ of exact real arithmetic. We give three operational semantics for our language, and we show that they are all adequate with respect to the denotational semantics. We also explore quite a few examples in order to demonstrate that our semantics computes exactly as one would expect, and in order to debunk the myth that a semantics based on continuous maps would not be expressive enough to encode measures with non-compact support using only measures with compact support, or to encode measures via non-continuous density functions, for instance. Our examples also include some useful, non-trivial cases of distributions on higher-order objects.


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