combinatory logic

Combinatory logicMathworldPlanetmath was invented by Moses Schönfinkel in the early 1920s, and was mostly developed by Haskell Curry. The idea was to reduce the notation of logic to the simplest terms possible. As such, combinatory logic consists only of combinators, combinationMathworldPlanetmath operationsMathworldPlanetmath, and no free variablesMathworldPlanetmath.

A combinator is simply a function with no free variables. A free variable is any variable referred to in a function that is not a parameter of that function. The operation of combination is then simply the application of a combinator to its parameters. Combination is specified by simple juxtaposition of two terms, and is left-associative. Parentheses may also be present to override associativity. For example


All combinators in combinatory logic can be derived from two basic combinators, S and K. They are defined as

Sfgx = fx(gx)
Kxy = x

Reference is sometimes made to a third basic combinator, I, which can be defined in terms of S and K.


Combinatory logic where I is considered to be derived from S and K is sometimes known as pure combinatory logic.

Combinatory logic and lambda calculusMathworldPlanetmath are equivalentMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath. However, lambda calculus is more concise than combinatory logic; an expression of size 𝒪(n) in lambda calculus is equivalent to an expression of size 𝒪(n2) in combinatory logic.

For example, Sfgx=fx(gx) in combinatory logic is equivalent to S=(λf(λg(λx((fx)(gx))))), and Kxy=x is equivalent to K=(λx(λyx)).

Title combinatory logic
Canonical name CombinatoryLogic
Date of creation 2013-03-22 12:32:29
Last modified on 2013-03-22 12:32:29
Owner Logan (6)
Last modified by Logan (6)
Numerical id 5
Author Logan (6)
Entry type Definition
Classification msc 03B40
Related topic LambdaCalculus
Related topic Substitutability
Defines combinator
Defines combination
Defines free variable
Defines pure combinatory logic