Fun wth ΠΣ

I have somewhat irrationally chosen ΠΣ as the core language for Dana. I’ve been struggling to create a small, beautiful implementation. But I am getting closer and closer — it’s just about finding the right combination of representations so they fit together nicely — and my hope is that when I am finished the implementation will be under 300 lines or so (only for the bootstrap, once I get to unsafe compilation it will of course grow).

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing with the prototype implementation to get a feel for the language. It is very pleasant to work with, even without the “necessary” programmer niceties such as inference. The typechecker is partial, and it is occasionally annoying when it loops. But it is predictable, and as I gain more experience I am seeing how to avoid them, just as one avoids infinite loops when writing programs. The convenience gained by a parital typechecker more than makes up for this annoyance.

One of the things I played with is encoding sum types as product types with a church encoding. In my experiment it worked, so it’s possible that sigma types are not necessary at all. To warm up, here is a non-dependent encoding for pairs in Haskell.

type Pair a b = forall c. (a -> b -> c) -> c

pair :: a -> b -> Pair a b
pair x y cc = cc x y

-- Here's how we destruct
unpair :: Pair a b -> (a,b)
unpair p = p (\x y -> (x,y))

So the encoding I used was just the dependent analog of the same thing, which I will reveal shortly. For those familiar with Agda, you will feel right at home in ΠΣ’s syntax. For those not, the trick is the notation (x : A) -> B, which is just like the type A -> B in Haskell, but first names the argument of type A, so that B may depend on it.

Sigma : (A : Type) -> (A -> Type) -> Type.
Sigma = \A -> \P -> (C : Type) -> ((x:A) -> P x -> C) -> C.

Pair : (A : Type) -> (P : A -> Type) 
     -> (x : A) -> P x -> Sigma A P.

Look for the resemblance of the “Sigma =” line with the “type Pair a b” line above.

The encoding of Nat is straightforward (exactly the same as the encoding with ΠΣ’s built in sigma type):

Nat : Type.
Nat = Sigma {'Z,'S} (\tag -> 
        Case tag of
        { 'Z -> {'Unit}
        | 'S -> Nat

And using it is almost as convenient; there are a few extra necessary type annotations.

iterate : (A : Type) -> Nat -> (A -> A) -> (A -> A).
iterate = \A -> \n -> \f -> \x0 ->
             n A (\tag -> \ns ->
                 Case tag of
                 { 'Z -> x0
                 | 'S -> f (iterate A ns f x0)

Notably, the “A” after “n” is absent when using the built-in syntax.

Meanwhile, Sigma types make a great encoding for modules. I will switch to the built-in syntax now, because it is a bit cleaner. It looks like this: (x : A ; B), which is just like the Haskell pair (A,B), except that it names the element of type A so that B may depend on it. Also, ; associates to the right, so we can make multi-field syntax.

So here is a first-class Nat module:

NatModule : Nat : Type
          ; zero : Nat
          ; succ : Nat -> Nat
          ; iterate : (A : Type) -> Nat -> (A -> A) -> (A -> A)
          ; {'Unit}.
NatModule = Nat, zero, succ, iterate, 'Unit.

So the core calculus already supports first-class modules (this is true of any dependently typed language). Throw a little syntax sugar on that and I might start to prefer this to Haskell.

Which is good, because the plan is to bootstrap in Haskell and then switch to all-PiSigma, until I can build a rudimentary Haskellish interpreter that compiles down to PiSigma.

I’m doing all this work because everything has to be first-class in Dana, because there is no compilation phase. It’s all tied together in one big jumble.

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One thought on “Fun wth ΠΣ

  1. I should remind myself to check up on your blog regularly. You seem to have many similar ideas to mine. Hopefully you’ll be more productive than I am.

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