The Intersection Type Unification Problem

Authors Andrej Dudenhefner, Moritz Martens, Jakob Rehof

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Andrej Dudenhefner
Moritz Martens
Jakob Rehof

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Andrej Dudenhefner, Moritz Martens, and Jakob Rehof. The Intersection Type Unification Problem. In 1st International Conference on Formal Structures for Computation and Deduction (FSCD 2016). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 52, pp. 19:1-19:16, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2016)


The intersection type unification problem is an important component in proof search related to several natural decision problems in intersection type systems. It is unknown and remains open whether the unification problem is decidable. We give the first nontrivial lower bound for the problem by showing (our main result) that it is exponential time hard. Furthermore, we show that this holds even under rank 1 solutions (substitutions whose codomains are restricted to contain rank 1 types). In addition, we provide a fixed-parameter intractability result for intersection type matching (one-sided unification), which is known to be NP-complete. We place the intersection type unification problem in the context of unification theory. The equational theory of intersection types can be presented as an algebraic theory with an ACI (associative, commutative, and idempotent) operator (intersection type) combined with distributivity properties with respect to a second operator (function type). Although the problem is algebraically natural and interesting, it appears to occupy a hitherto unstudied place in the theory of unification, and our investigation of the problem suggests that new methods are required to understand the problem. Thus, for the lower bound proof, we were not able to reduce from known results in ACI-unification theory and use game-theoretic methods for two-player tiling games.
  • Intersection Type
  • Equational Theory
  • Unification
  • Tiling
  • Complexity


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