Residuated Transition Systems

Eugene W. Stark 📧

February 28, 2022

This is a development version of this entry. It might change over time and is not stable. Please refer to release versions for citations.


A residuated transition system (RTS) is a transition system that is equipped with a certain partial binary operation, called residuation, on transitions. Using the residuation operation, one can express nuances, such as a distinction between nondeterministic and concurrent choice, as well as partial commutativity relationships between transitions, which are not captured by ordinary transition systems. A version of residuated transition systems was introduced in previous work by the author, in which they were called “concurrent transition systems” in view of the original motivation for their definition from the study of concurrency. In the first part of the present article, we give a formal development that generalizes and subsumes the original presentation. We give an axiomatic definition of residuated transition systems that assumes only a single partial binary operation as given structure. From the axioms, we derive notions of “arrow“ (transition), “source”, “target”, “identity”, as well as “composition” and “join” of transitions; thereby recovering structure that in the previous work was assumed as given. We formalize and generalize the result, that residuation extends from transitions to transition paths, and we systematically develop the properties of this extension. A significant generalization made in the present work is the identification of a general notion of congruence on RTS’s, along with an associated quotient construction.

In the second part of this article, we use the RTS framework to formalize several results in the theory of reduction in Church’s λ-calculus. Using a de Bruijn index-based syntax in which terms represent parallel reduction steps, we define residuation on terms and show that it satisfies the axioms for an RTS. An application of the results on paths from the first part of the article allows us to prove the classical Church-Rosser Theorem with little additional effort. We then use residuation to define the notion of “development” and we prove the Finite Developments Theorem, that every development is finite, formalizing and adapting to de Bruijn indices a proof by de Vrijer. We also use residuation to define the notion of a “standard reduction path”, and we prove the Standardization Theorem: that every reduction path is congruent to a standard one. As a corollary of the Standardization Theorem, we obtain the Leftmost Reduction Theorem: that leftmost reduction is a normalizing strategy.


BSD License


Session ResiduatedTransitionSystem