Wadler space leak

Bertram Felgenhauer bertram.felgenhauer at googlemail.com
Thu Oct 28 09:21:05 EDT 2010


>   let (first,rest) = break (const False) input
>   in
>   print (length (first ++ rest))
> When I compile this program using -O2 and use a large text file as
> input the code runs in constant space. If I understand correctly,
> the program runs in constant space because ghc uses an optimization
> similar to the one proposed by Wadler/Sparud.

Right. The optimization works by producing special thunks for tuple
selectors which the garbage collector can recognize and evaluate
during GC.

However the implementation in GHC is quite brittle. See


I suspect your program is another instance of this behaviour.

> If I define the following function which is based on break
>   splitBy :: (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> [[a]]
>   splitBy _ []  = []
>   splitBy p xs  =
>     l : case ys of
>              []   -> []
>              _:zs -> splitBy' p zs
>     where
>       (l,ys) = break p xs

I haven't looked in detail; what follows is a guess of what
ghc may be doing. It could be verified by looking at the
generated core.

The where-binding desugars to something like

    let q = break p xs
        ys = case q of (_, ys) -> ys
        l = case q of (l, _) -> l
    in  ...

ys can be inlined into splitBy, producing

    l : case (case q of (l, ys) -> ys) of
             []   -> []
             _:zs -> splitBy' p zs

    l : case q of (l, ys) -> case ys of
             []   -> []
             _:zs -> splitBy' p zs

and now the tuple selector is no longer recognizable.

Best regards,


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