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Typing of patterns
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Date: -- (:)
From: Jacques Garrigue <garrigue@k...>
Subject: Re: Typing of patterns
From: Pierre Weis <>

> We can observe the same kind of behaviour with polymorphic variants:
> type 'a pliste = [`Nil | `Cons of 'a * 'a pliste];;
> However, we get a strange difference in typing since, as you
> mentioned, the explicit ``as clause'' does not set up a typing
> connection between input and output :
> let (ensure_nil : 'a pliste -> 'b pliste) = function
>   | `Cons (x, l) -> failwith "Not nil"
>   | `Nil as l -> l;;
> val ensure_nil : 'a pliste -> 'b pliste = <fun>
> Jacques may explain us if the above suggested generalization scheme is
> used for identifiers bound in as clauses of patterns (and if not,
> which scheme is used ?)...

Ok, with polymorphic variants the as clause has a special meaning:
typingwise it does the same thing as an explicit copy, but without the
operational cost involved.

However, the goal is a bit different, as you can can see if you don't
put type annotations on the output:

let (ensure_nil : 'a pliste -> 'b) = function
  | `Cons (x, l) -> failwith "Not nil"
  | `Nil as l -> l;;
val ensure_nil : 'a pliste -> [> `Nil] = <fun>

With polymorphic variants we know that the output does not contain
Cons! The disconnection between input and output variables is a mere
consequence of that: [> `Nil] knows nothing about the type parameter
of pliste.

This mechanism was intended as an implementation of type-based
dispatch (with polymorhic variants type and values coincide), and you
could say it is just an overloading of the as construct (which is OK
since it does not change its operational meaning).
>From the point of view of separation, it is also a bit ad-hoc, in that
it requires the variant pattern (or an or-pattern containing only
variants) to be immediately enclosed in the as clause, otherwise it
reverts to the usual type-sharing behaviour:

let f1 = function `A as x -> x;;
val f1 : [< `A] -> [> `A] = <fun>
let f2 = function (`A, `B) as x -> x;;
val f2 : ([< `A] as 'a) * ([< `B] as 'b) -> 'a * 'b = <fun>

> Conclusion: this strongly suggests to generalize the typing of
> synonymous identifiers in patterns, in order to obtain the same typing
> assignments for pattern matching on ``closed'' polymorphic variants
> and pattern matching on their (semantically equivalent) sum data types
> counterparts.

This is indeed possible. This just requires a bit of additional code in
the type checker. However sum data types do not allow type-based
dispatch, so this would really only be useful for separating type
Also, this reminds me of another problem discussed last year in this
mailing list:
        # type 'a t = {key: int; data: 'a};;
        type 'a t = { key : int; data : 'a; } 
        # let v = {key = 1; data = 1};;    
        val v : int t = {key=1; data=1}
        # {v with data = true};;
        This expression has type int t but is here used with type bool t

If we separate type parameters in sums, then we will probably also
have to do it for products, isn't it ?
Symmetries can bring you a long way.


Jacques Garrigue      Kyoto University     garrigue at
		<A HREF=>JG</A>