This paper develops a novel minimal-state operational semantics for higher-order functional languages that uses only the call stack and a source program point or a lexical level as the complete state information: there is no environment, no substitution, no continuation, etc. We prove this form of operational semantics equivalent to standard presentations.

We then show how this approach can open the door to potential new applications: we define a program analysis as a direct finitization of this operational semantics. The program analysis that naturally emerges has a number of novel and interesting properties compared to standard program analyses for higher-order programs: for example, it can infer recurrences and does not need value widening. We both give a formal definition of the analysis and describe our current implementation.