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19.3 Termination analysis

The compiler includes a termination analyser which can be used to prove termination of predicates and functions. Details of the analysis is available in “Termination Analysis for Mercury” by Chris Speirs, Zoltan Somogyi and Harald Sondergaard. See [1].

The analysis is based around an algorithm proposed by Gerhard Groger and Lutz Plumer in their paper “Handling of mutual recursion in automatic termination proofs for logic programs.” See [2].

For an introduction to termination analysis for logic programs, please refer to “Termination Analysis for Logic Programs” by Chris Speirs. See [3].

Information about the termination properties of a predicate or function can be given to the compiler. Pragmas are also available to require the compiler to prove termination of a given predicate or function, or to give an error message if it cannot do so.

The analyser is enabled by the option ‘--enable-termination’, which can be abbreviated to ‘--enable-term’. When termination analysis is enabled, any predicates or functions with a ‘check_termination’ pragma defined on them will have their termination checked, and if termination cannot be proved, the compiler will emit an error message detailing the reason that termination could not be proved.

The option ‘--check-termination’, which may be abbreviated to ‘--check-term’ or ‘--chk-term’, forces the compiler to check the termination of all predicates in the module. It is common for the compiler to be unable to prove termination of some predicates and functions because they call other predicates which could not be proved to terminate or because they use language features (such as higher-order calls) which cannot be usefully analysed. In this case, the compiler only emits a warning for these predicates and functions if the ‘--verbose-check-termination’ option is enabled. For every predicate or function that the compiler cannot prove the termination of, a warning message is emitted, but compilation continues. The ‘--check-termination’ option implies the ‘--enable-termination’ option.

The accuracy of the termination analysis is substantially degraded if intermodule optimization is not enabled. Unless intermodule optimization is enabled, the compiler must assume that any imported predicate may not terminate.

By default, the compiler assumes that a procedure defined using the foreign language interface will terminate for all input if it does not call Mercury. If it does call Mercury then by default the compiler will assume that it may not terminate.

The foreign code attributes ‘terminates’/‘does_not_terminate’ may be used to force the compiler to treat a foreign_proc as terminating/non-terminating irrespective of whether it calls Mercury. As a matter of style, it is preferable to use foreign code attributes for foreign_procs rather than the termination pragmas described below.

The following declarations can be used to inform the compiler of the termination properties of a predicate or function.

:- pragma terminates(Name/Arity).

This declaration may be used to inform the compiler that this predicate or function is guaranteed to terminate for any input. This is useful when the compiler cannot prove termination of some predicates or functions which are in turn preventing the compiler from proving termination of other predicates or functions. This declaration affects not only the predicate specified but also any other predicates that are mutually recursive with it.

:- pragma does_not_terminate(Name/Arity).

This declaration may be used to inform the compiler that this predicate may not terminate. This declaration affects not only the predicate specified but also any other predicates that are mutually recursive with it.

:- pragma check_termination(Name/Arity).

This pragma forces the compiler to prove termination of this predicate. If it cannot prove the termination of the specified predicate or function then the compiler will quit with an error message.


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