Defect Report #109
Submission Date: 03 Dec 93
Source: Ron Guilmette
[Question was revised in Jun 94.]
ANSI/ISO C Defect Report #rfg16:
Does the C Standard draw any significant distinction between ``undefined
values'' and ``undefined behavior?'' (It appears that it
does, but if it does, that fact is not always apparent.)
Just to give two examples which, it would appear, involve the generation
(in a running program) of undefined values (as opposed to totally
undefined behavior at either compile-time or link-time or run-time)
I provide the following two citations.
Subclause 6.3.8 Relational operators:
If the objects pointed to are not members of the same aggregate
or union object, the result is undefined,...
Subclause 22.214.171.124 The acos function:
A domain error occurs for arguments not in the range [-1,+1].
The issue of ``undefined values'' versus ``undefined behavior''
has great significance and importance to people doing compiler testing.
It is generally accepted that the C Standard's use of the term ``undefined
behavior'' is meant to imply that absolutely anything can
happen at any time, e.g. at compile-time, at link-time, or at run-time.
Thus, people testing compilers must either totally avoid writing test
cases which involve any kind of ``undefined behavior'' or else
they must treat any such test cases which they do write as
strictly ``quality of implementation'' tests which may validly
cause errors at compile-time, at link-time, or at run-time.
If however the C Standard recognizes the separate existence of ``undefined
values'' (whose mere creation does not involve wholly ``undefined
behavior'') then a person doing compiler testing could write a
test case such as the following, and he/she could also expect (or
possibly demand) that a conforming implementation should,
at the very least, compile this code (and possibly also allow it to
execute) without ``failure.''
int *p1 = &array1;
int *p2 = &array2;
i = (p1 > p2); /* Must this be "successfully translated"? */
1/0; /* Must this be "successfully translated"? */
So the bottom line question is this: Must the above code be ``successfully
translated'' (whatever that means)? (See the footnote attached
to subclause 126.96.36.199.)
The C Standard uses the term ``indeterminately valued''
not ``undefined value.''
Use of an indeterminate valued object results in undefined
The footnote to subclause 188.8.131.52 points out that an implementation
is free to produce any number of diagnostics as long as a valid
program is still correctly translated.
If an expression whose evaulation would result in undefined behavior
appears in a context where a constant expression is required, the
containing program is not strictly conforming.
Furthermore, if every possible execution of a given program
would result in undefined behavior, the given program is not
A conforming implementation must not fail to translate a strictly
conforming program simply because some possible execution
of that program would result in undefined behavior.
Because foo might never be called, the example given
must be successfully translated by a conforming implementation.
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