Nominal Logic, A First Order Theory of Names and Binding

Andrew M. Pitts


This paper formalises within first-order logic some common practices in computer science to do with representing and reasoning about syntactical structures involving lexically scoped binding constructs. It introduces Nominal Logic, a version of first-order many-sorted logic with equality containing primitives for renaming via name-swapping, for freshness of names, and for name-binding. Its axioms express properties of these constructs satisfied by the FM-sets model of syntax involving binding, which was recently introduced by the author and MJ Gabbay and makes use of the Fraenkel-Mostowski permutation model of set theory. Nominal Logic serves as a vehicle for making two general points. First, name-swapping has much nicer logical properties than more general, non-bijective forms of renaming while at the same time providing a sufficient foundation for a theory of structural induction/recursion for syntax modulo $\alpha$-equivalence. Secondly, it is useful for the practice of operational semantics to make explicit the equivariance property of assertions about syntax - namely that their validity is invariant under name-swapping.