Suppressing False Incomplete Pattern Matching Warnings for Polymorphic Pattern Synonyms

Ryan Scott at
Thu Oct 25 13:30:42 UTC 2018

The fact that `LL` can't be used in a COMPLETE pragma is a consequence
of its current design. Per the users' guide [1]:

    To make things more formal, when the pattern-match checker
requests a set of constructors for some data type constructor T, the
checker returns:

    * The original set of data constructors for T
    * Any COMPLETE sets of type T

Note the use of the phrase *type constructor*. The return type of all
constructor-like things in a COMPLETE set must all be headed by the
same type constructor T. Since `LL`'s return type is simply a type
variable `a`, this simply doesn't work with the design of COMPLETE

But to be perfectly honest, I feel that trying to put `LL` into a
COMPLETE set is like putting a square peg into a round hole. The
original motivation for COMPLETE sets, as given in this wiki page [2],
is to support using pattern synonyms in an abstract matter—that is, to
ensure that users who match on pattern synonyms don't have any
internal implementation details of those pattern synonyms leak into
error messages. This is well and good for many use cases, but there
are also many use cases where we don't *care* about abstraction.
Sometimes, we simply define a pattern synonym to be a convenient
shorthand for a complicated pattern to facilitate code reuse, and
nothing more.

`LL` is a perfect example of this, in my opinion. `LL` is simply a
thin wrapper around the use of `decomposeSrcSpan` as a view pattern.
Trying to put `LL` into a COMPLETE set is silly since our intention
isn't to hide the implementation details of decomposing a `SrcSpan`,
but rather to avoid the need to copy-paste `(decomposeSrcSpan -> (m ,
s))` in a bazillion patterns. Correspondingly, any use of `LL` ought
to be treated as if the `(decomposeSrcSpan -> (m , s))` pattern were
inlined—and from the pattern-match coverage checker's point of view,
that *is* exhaustive!

What's the moral of the story here? To me, this is a sign that the
design space of pattern synonym coverage checking isn't rich enough.
In addition to the existing {-# COMPLETE #-} machinery that we have
today, I think we need to have a separate pragma for pattern synonyms
that are intended to be transparent, non-abstract wrappers around
patterns ({-# TRANSPARENT #-}, perhaps).

Ryan S.

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