Environmental bisimulations for higher-order languages

Davide Sangiorgi, Naoki Kobayashi, Eijiro Sumii

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63 Citations (Scopus)


Developing a theory of bisimulation in higher-order languages can be hard. Particularly challenging can be: (1) the proof of congruence, as well as enhancements of the bisimulation proof method with "up-to context" techniques, and (2) obtaining definitions and results that scale to languages with different features. To meet these challenges, we present environment bisimulations, a form of bisimulation for higher-order languages, and its basic theory. We consider four representative calculi: pure λ-calculi (call-by-name and call-by-value), call-by-value λ-calculus with higher-order store, and then Higher-Order p-calculus. In each case: we present the basic properties of environment bisimilarity, including congruence; we show that it coincides with contextual equivalence; we develop some upto techniques, including up-to context, as examples of possible enhancements of the associated bisimulation method. Unlike previous approaches (such as applicative bisimulations, logical relations, Sumii-Pierce-Koutavas-Wand), our method does not require induction/indices on evaluation derivation/steps (which may complicate the proofs of congruence, transitivity, and the combination with up-to techniques), or sophisticated methods such as Howe's for proving congruence. It also scales from the pure λ-calculi to the richer calculi with simple congruence proofs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan


  • Bisimulation
  • Congruence
  • Higher-order languages
  • Higher-order p-calculus
  • λ-calculus


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