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Semantics of C in K

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See for installation instructions and LICENSE for licensing information.

If this readme isn't enough, consider checking out these papers to better understand this project:

Quick overview

  • kcc
    is meant to act a lot like
    . You use it and run programs the same way. If your system provides a command
    already (of which there are several possible), we also provide the synonym
  • The programs
    generates act like normal programs. Both the output to stdout (e.g.,
    ), as well as the return value of the program should be what you expect. In terms of operational behavior, a correct program compiled with kcc should act the same as one compiled with
  • Take a look at
    kcc -h
    for some compile-time options. For most programs, you only need to run
    kcc program.c
    and everything will work.
  • After compiling a program and generating an output file
    , the resulting program is a native executable and can be run on any platform provided it has access to the runtime libraries required by the dynamic linker.
  • If you try to run a program that is undefined (or one for which we are missing semantics), the program will get stuck. The message should tell you where it got stuck and may give a hint as to why. If you want help deciphering the output, or help understanding why the program is undefined, please send your final configuration to us. If you are using default settings, this configuration is located in the file
    in the current directory if the program got stuck while executing, or can be generated using
    kcc -d
    in case of compile-time errors.

Runtime features


has been run on C source files, it should produce an executable script (
by default).

Testing the semantics

The tests directory includes many of the tests we've used to build confidence in the correctness of our semantics. To run the basic set of tests, run

make check
from the top-level directory. For performance reasons, you may first wish to run
in the background, and pass a
flag to make to get the desired level of parallelism.

A note on libraries

KCC comes by default with relatively limited support for the C library. If you are compiling and linking a program that makes use of many library functions, you may likely run into CV-CID1 and UB-TDR2 errors, signifying respectively that the function you are calling was not declared in the appropriate header file, or that it was declared, but no definition exists currently in the semantics.

We recommend if you wish to execute such programs that you contact Runtime Verification, Inc, which licenses a tool RV-Match based on this semantics which is capable of executing such programs by linking against the native code provided on your system for these libraries. For more information, contact

Project structure


  • examples: some simple example programs for demonstrating the undefinedness that we can catch.

  • x86-gcc-limited-libc: library headers and some library sources for functions that aren't defined directly in the semantics itself.

  • parser: the lightly modified OCaml CIL C parser.

  • scripts: e.g., the

    script and
    , the script that becomes
  • semantics: the K C semantics.

  • tests: undefinedness, gcc-torture, juliet, llvm, etc.

  • dist
    : created during the build process, this is where the final products go. For convenience, consider adding this directory to your

During the build process, three versions of the semantics are built using

with different flags: a "deterministic" version, a version for supporting non-deterministic expression sequencing, and another with non-deterministic thread-interleaving. These all get copied to
along with the contents of x86-gcc-limited-libc/include and the scripts/kcc script. Finally, make runs
kcc -s -shared
on all the libc source files in x86-gcc-limited-libc/src.


script is the primary interface to our semantics. Invoking
results in the contents of the parameter C source file being piped through, consecutively:
  1. the GNU C preprocessor, resulting in the C program with all preprocessor macros expanded;
  2. the CIL C parser (cparser), resulting in a KAST term;

The root of this AST is a single

term, which is then interpreted by our "translation" semantics.

See semantics/c/ for more details.

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