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Restrictable Variants: A Simple and Practical Alternative to Extensible Variants

Authors: Magnus Madsen, Jonathan Lindegaard Starup, and Matthew Lutze

Published in: LIPIcs, Volume 263, 37th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2023)


Abstract
We propose restrictable variants as a simple and practical alternative to extensible variants. Restrictable variants combine nominal and structural typing: a restrictable variant is an algebraic data type indexed by a type-level set formula that captures its set of active labels. We introduce new pattern-matching constructs that allows programmers to write functions that only match on a subset of variants, i.e., pattern-matches may be non-exhaustive. We then present a type system for restrictable variants which ensures that such non-exhaustive matches cannot get stuck at runtime. An essential feature of restrictable variants is that the type system can capture structure-preserving transformations: specifically the introduction and elimination of variants. This property is important for writing reusable functions, yet many row-based extensible variant systems lack it. In this paper, we present a calculus with restrictable variants, two partial pattern-matching constructs, and a type system that ensures progress and preservation. The type system extends Hindley-Milner with restrictable variants and supports type inference with an extension of Algorithm W with Boolean unification. We implement restrictable variants as an extension of the Flix programming language and conduct a few case studies to illustrate their practical usefulness.

Cite as

Magnus Madsen, Jonathan Lindegaard Starup, and Matthew Lutze. Restrictable Variants: A Simple and Practical Alternative to Extensible Variants. In 37th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 263, pp. 17:1-17:27, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


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@InProceedings{madsen_et_al:LIPIcs.ECOOP.2023.17,
  author =	{Madsen, Magnus and Starup, Jonathan Lindegaard and Lutze, Matthew},
  title =	{{Restrictable Variants: A Simple and Practical Alternative to Extensible Variants}},
  booktitle =	{37th European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2023)},
  pages =	{17:1--17:27},
  series =	{Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)},
  ISBN =	{978-3-95977-281-5},
  ISSN =	{1868-8969},
  year =	{2023},
  volume =	{263},
  editor =	{Ali, Karim and Salvaneschi, Guido},
  publisher =	{Schloss Dagstuhl -- Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik},
  address =	{Dagstuhl, Germany},
  URL =		{https://drops.dagstuhl.de/entities/document/10.4230/LIPIcs.ECOOP.2023.17},
  URN =		{urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-182109},
  doi =		{10.4230/LIPIcs.ECOOP.2023.17},
  annote =	{Keywords: restrictable variants, extensible variants, refinement types, Boolean unification}
}
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