Reasoning About Foreign Function Interfaces Without Modelling the Foreign Language

Authors Alexi Turcotte, Ellen Arteca, Gregor Richards

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Author Details

Alexi Turcotte
  • Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
Ellen Arteca
  • Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
Gregor Richards
  • University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada


The authors would like to thank Rafi Turas for writing the implementation of these techniques in Poseidon Lua. We'd also like to thank Hugo Musso Gualandi for his valuable discussions/feedback. This work was partially funded by NSERC.

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Alexi Turcotte, Ellen Arteca, and Gregor Richards. Reasoning About Foreign Function Interfaces Without Modelling the Foreign Language. In 33rd European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 134, pp. 16:1-16:32, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


Foreign function interfaces (FFIs) allow programs written in one language (called the host language) to call functions written in another language (called the guest language), and are widespread throughout modern programming languages, with C FFIs being the most prevalent. Unfortunately, reasoning about C FFIs can be very challenging, particularly when using traditional methods which necessitate a full model of the guest language in order to guarantee anything about the whole language. To address this, we propose a framework for defining whole language semantics of FFIs without needing to model the guest language, which makes reasoning about C FFIs feasible. We show that with such a semantics, one can guarantee some form of soundness of the overall language, as well as attribute errors in well-typed host language programs to the guest language. We also present an implementation of this scheme, Poseidon Lua, which shows a speedup over a traditional Lua C FFI.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Software and its engineering → Interoperability
  • Software and its engineering → Semantics
  • Formal Semantics
  • Language Interoperation
  • Lua
  • C
  • Foreign Function Interfaces


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