Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Abstracting on, suggested solutions

I guess I should be more constructive than just whining about how Haskell doesn't always do what I want. I do have some suggestions on how to fix things.

Explicit type applications

Let's look at a simple example again:
f :: forall a . a -> a
f = \ x -> x

b :: Bool
b = f True
The way I like to think of this (and what happens in ghc) is that this is shorthand for something more explicit, namely the Fw version of the same thing. In Fw all type abstraction and type application are explicit. Let's look at the explicit version (which is no longer Haskell).
f :: forall (a::*) . a -> a
f = /\ (a::*) -> \ (x::a) -> x

b :: Bool
b = f @Bool True
I'm using /\ for type abstraction and expr @type for type application. Furthermore each binder is annotated with its type. This is what ghc translates the code to internally, this process involves figuring out what all the type abstractions and applications should be.

Not something a little more complicated (from my previous post)

class C a b where
    x :: a
    y :: b

f :: (C a b) => a -> [a]
f z = [x, x, z]
The type of x is
x :: forall a b . (C a b) => a
So whenever x occurs two type applications have to be inserted (there's also a dictionary to insert, but I'll ignore that). The decorated term for f (ignoring the context)
f :: forall a b . (C a b) => a -> [a]
f = /\ (a::*) (b::*) -> \ (z::a) -> [ x @a @b1, x @a @b2, z]
The reason for the ambiguity in type checking is that the type check cannot figure out that the b is in any way connected to b1 and b2. Because it isn't. And there's currently no way we can connect them.

So I suggest that it should be possible to use explicit type application in Haskell when you want to. The code would look like this

f :: forall a b . (C a b) => a -> [a]
f z = [ x @a @b, x @a @b, z]
The order of the variables in the forall determines the order in which the type abstractions come, and thus determines where to put the type applications.

Something like abstype

Back to my original problem with abstraction. What about if this was allowed:
class Ops t where
    data XString t :: *
    (+++) :: XString t -> XString t -> XString t

instance Ops Basic where
    type XString Basic = String
    (+++) = (++)
So the class declaration says I'm going to use data types (which was my final try and which works very nicely). But in the instance I provide a type synonym instead. This would be like using a newtype in the instance, but without having to use the newtype constructor everywhere. The fact that it's not a real data type is only visible inside the instance declaration. The compiler could in fact make a newtype and insert all the coercions. This is, of course, just a variation of the abstype suggestion by Wehr and Chakravarty.

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2 Comments:

Blogger sof said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 5:44:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Raoul Duke said...

get Liskell to have a good module system, and use that instead? :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009 at 12:53:00 AM GMT  

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