Bialgebraic Semantics for String Diagrams

Filippo Bonchi, Robin Piedeleu, Pawel Sobocinski, Fabio Zanasi

Turi and Plotkin's bialgebraic semantics is an abstract approach to specifying the operational semantics of a system, by means of a distributive law between its syntax (encoded as a monad) and its dynamics (an endofunctor). This setup is instrumental in showing that a semantic specification (a coalgebra) satisfies desirable properties: in particular, that it is compositional. In this work, we use the bialgebraic approach to derive well-behaved structural operational semantics of string diagrams, a graphical syntax that is increasingly used in the study of interacting systems across different disciplines. Our analysis relies on representing the two-dimensional operations underlying string diagrams in various categories as a monad, and their bialgebraic semantics in terms of a distributive law over that monad. As a proof of concept, we provide bialgebraic compositional semantics for a versatile string diagrammatic language which has been used to model both signal flow graphs (control theory) and Petri nets (concurrency theory). Moreover, our approach reveals a correspondence between two different interpretations of the Frobenius equations on string diagrams and two synchronisation mechanisms for processes, \`a la Hoare and \`a la Milner.

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