Re: Looking for a nail

From: John Prevost (
Date: Fri Jan 29 1999 - 08:20:59 MET

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 02:20:59 -0500
Message-Id: <>
From: John Prevost <>
Subject: Interesting behavior of "include"

I started using the "include" directive in signatures recently, then
realized that it's not actually documented anywhere (although it's
quite useful at times.)

I also discovered a little "problem" with it.

module type test =
    type t
    val a : t

module type test2 =
    include test
    val b : t

module type test3 =
    include test
    val c : t

module type testbad =
    include test2
    include test3 with type t = t

    (* This would seem to imply that the new type t is the same as the old
       when the above expands to:
         type t
         val a : t
         val b : t
         type t = t (* just "type t" without the "with" part above. *)
         val a : t
         val c : t
       So that a, b, and c would all have the same type.

       If you try it without the with, you'll see that they do actually end up
       all with the same type, but no matter how hard you try to constrain the
       signature using "with", the second "type t" causes t to be abstract.

       If you use the with above to try to constrain the second type t
       in the signature to be the same as the first (you can't name
       which t you mean, since include doesn't let you refer to the
       first t as Test2.t), you get an even worse problem:

         module type testbad =
           sig type t val a : t val b : t type t = t val a : t val c : t end
         # module Testbad : testbad with type t = int = struct
         # type t = int
         # let a = 1
         # let b = 1
         # let c = 1
         # end;;
         module Testbad :
           sig type t = int val a : t val b : t type t = t val a : t
               val c : t end
         # Testbad.a;;
         - : Testbad.t = Uncaught exception: Stack overflow

      This happens with or without the with in the module definition.

      Pretty neat, eh? The with definition is allowing you to define a
      cyclic type abbreviation. (This is correctly caught in all other
      places you can use with as being an unbound type constructor. But
      in the include case, it must see that there is, in fact, a type t,
      without being able to express in the form of a signature that in
      the definition "type t = t", the second t refers to the previously
      defined t.

      This leaves two problems of course: the first is "include ... with"
      needs to check for cyclic type abbreviations, and the second is that
      there's no way to constrain includes to be more "merging" than they
      are (so that I can define "MONAD_ZERO_PLUS" in terms of "MONAD_ZERO"
      and "MONAD_PLUS" instead of in terms of "MONAD", say.)

      Of course, I probably shouldn't be using an undocumented feature
      in the first place.


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