[TYPES] Subtyping, extensional equality, and contravariance

Andreas Abel abel at informatik.uni-muenchen.de
Wed Jul 27 08:04:00 EDT 2005

If one models types as sets of untyped programs, one usually gets a 
contravariant function space:

   A -> B = { r | r s in B for all s in A }

On untyped terms one can only define an extensional equality which only 
looks at the operational behaviour of programs.  This seems to be what 
you have in mind!?

Regarding the issue of a type "function" of all functions, and some of 
its difficulties, I recall a discussion in B.C.Pierce's book "Types and 
Programming Languages", beginning of chapter 9.


Tim Sweeney wrote:
> [The Types Forum, http://lists.seas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/types-list]
> This is a query about a new direction in type systems supporting
> subtyping, extensional equality, and contravariance.
> Consider a type system with types "int" (the integers) and "nat" (the
> natural numbers) with nat<:int. Now define:
> 	abs :: int -> int
> 	abs x = if x >= 0 then x else -x
> 	id :: int -> int
> 	id x = x
> Traditionally, one would say that abs!=int (at type int->int), and
> abs=id (at type nat->nat). In other words, extensional equality is only
> meaningful "at a type t", and the extensional equality of values may
> differ depending on the types at which they are interpretted.
> But I am interested in a type system in which equality represents the
> same relation at all types, in other words: a=b (at type t) implies that
> a=b (at type u) for all types u containing a and b.  Thus we can talk of
> a=b without referring to an interpretation type t.  The effect of this
> is to make all values non-polymorphic, that is, their interpretation is
> independent of the context in which they are interpretted.
> To satisfy this goal, I found it necessary to associate with every
> function value a unique "domain type" which is extractable and is
> carried around with the function value:
> 	dom :: forall t,u. t -> u -> type
> 	dom f = t
> Then, two functions f and g are equal iff dom(f)=dom(g) and for all
> x:dom(f), f(x)=g(x).  In the examples above, dom(abs)=dom(id)=int, and
> abs!=id.
> The "invariant function space" type (written t+>u for now) then means
> the type of functions f in which dom(f)=t and for all x:t, f(x):u.  Thus
> we have abs:int+>int, but not abs:nat+>nat, because dom(abs)=int.
> The "contravariant function space" type t->u then means (intuitively)
> the union, for all supertypes types t' of t and all types u', of all
> functions f:t'+>u' in which for all x:t, f(x) belongs to type u'. In
> other words, all functions whose domain includes t, and whose image
> under t belongs to u. This is interesting because we then have
> abs:int->int and abs:nat->nat, but not abs:int->nat.
> Given an empty type "empty" and any type t, the type "empty->t" is then
> the type of all functions; name the later "function".
> This approach appears to enable implicit parametric polymorphism without
> the existing of any (implicit or explicit "forall") quantifiers. For
> example, in Haskell one would write:
> 	map :: (t -> u) -> [t] -> [u]
> 	map f xs = [f x | x <- xs]
> 	as = map abs [3,-5,7]
> If we took the dependent-typed language Cayenne and removed parametric
> polymorphism, to write this we would have to specify all types
> explicitly:
> 	map (t::type) (u::type) (f::t->u) (xs::[t])
> 	as = map int int abs [3,-5,7]
> But with the type system above, where every function value carries its
> exact domain type along with it, we can write the following:
> 	map (f::function) (xs::[dom(f)]) = [f x | x <- xs]
> 	as = map abs [3,-5,7]
> Note that the above "map abs" application is as concise as in Haskell,
> but requires no forall quantifiers (neither explicit nor implicit), as
> the function's domain type is extracted from the function's value.
> We can also define a universal type "top" containing all possible
> values.  And then a Haskell function like:
> 	id :: t -> t
> 	id x = x
> Can be translated without quantifiers as:
> 	id (x::top) = x
> Has this approach been taken before?  I would appreciate any references
> to work along these lines, especially results on parametricity.
> Tim Sweeney

Andreas Abel  <><      --<>--     Du bist der geliebte Mensch.

Dept. of Computer Science,   Chalmers University of Technology
Rännvägen 6, rum 5111A, 41296 Göteborg, SWEDEN, +46-31-7721006

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