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The Duality of Subtyping

Authors Bruno C. d. S. Oliveira, Cui Shaobo, Baber Rehman

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Author Details

Bruno C. d. S. Oliveira
  • The University of Hong Kong, China
Cui Shaobo
  • University of California San Diego, CA, USA
Baber Rehman
  • The University of Hong Kong, China


We thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Bruno C. d. S. Oliveira, Cui Shaobo, and Baber Rehman. The Duality of Subtyping. In 34th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 166, pp. 29:1-29:29, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


Subtyping is a concept frequently encountered in many programming languages and calculi. Various forms of subtyping exist for different type system features, including intersection types, union types or bounded quantification. Normally these features are designed independently of each other, without exploiting obvious similarities (or dualities) between features. This paper proposes a novel methodology for designing subtyping relations that exploits duality between features. At the core of our methodology is a generalization of subtyping relations, which we call Duotyping. Duotyping is parameterized by the mode of the relation. One of these modes is the usual subtyping, while another mode is supertyping (the dual of subtyping). Using the mode it is possible to generalize the usual rules of subtyping to account not only for the intended behaviour of one particular language construct, but also of its dual. Duotyping brings multiple benefits, including: shorter specifications and implementations, dual features that come essentially for free, as well as new proof techniques for various properties of subtyping. To evaluate a design based on Duotyping against traditional designs, we formalized various calculi with common OOP features (including union types, intersection types and bounded quantification) in Coq in both styles. Our results show that the metatheory when using Duotyping does not come at a significant cost: the metatheory with Duotyping has similar complexity and size compared to the metatheory for traditional designs. However, we discover new features as duals to well-known features. Furthermore, we also show that Duotyping can significantly simplify transitivity proofs for many of the calculi studied by us.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Software and its engineering → Object oriented languages
  • DuoTyping
  • OOP
  • Duality
  • Subtyping
  • Supertyping


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