Records in Haskell

Anthony Clayden anthony_clayden at
Sun Feb 26 06:17:57 CET 2012

Whoa! suddenly a deluge over the DORF proposal.

I don't have time to reply fully now, but I must say: Barney
you have got it all wrong.

No, DORF does not attach one class to each label. There is
only one class 'Has', with methods get and set. Each record
decl generates an instance for the combination of
record/field. You can't mix declared and free-standing
labels in the same record. The switch for DORF is at the
module level: in a module either all records and labels use
DORF, or none do (that is, they use H98 style with each
field name being unique).


----- Original Message Follows -----
> > My objection is that I'm not sure if there is ever a
> > case where "you really want things to be polymorphic
> over all records".
> Well, I don't have a simple, really convincing example,
> but there are certainly things I want to play with. More
> importantly, DORF automatically attaches one class to each
> label, but this is often not what you want. For example,
> if you have two fields "firstname" and "lastname" the
> associated classes are less useful: what you really want
> is 
> >      class (Has r "firstname" String, Has r "lastname"
> String) => HasPersonalName r
> so that you can define
> >    fullname :: HasPersonalName r => r -> String
> >    fullname r = r.firstname ++ " " ++ r.lastname
> You may also want to define subclasses to express more
> specific conditions. In general, the compiler cannot
> automatically deduce what is semantically important: you
> need to define it yourself. The Has class is the base on
> which you can build.
> > It doesn't seem like the
> > Haskell way to have the less safe thing as the one
> > that's default and convenient, and to allow the
> > programmer to layer a more-safe thing on top of it if he
> > or she wants to. It seems more like the Haskell way to
> have the safer thing be the default and to require extra
> > work if you want to do something less safe*.
> I think you are using the word "safe" in a slightly
> misleading way. None of this is mathematically unsafe,
> because projections are natural (truly polymorphic). The
> "safety" that is broken here is nothing to do with the
> semantics of the language, it is to do with the semantics
> of the system being implemented, and that is something the
> compiler cannot infer. As my example above shows, it
> doesn't always correspond one to one with the labels.
> The Haskel way is to make things as polymorphic as is
> mathematically safe, even when this goes beyond the
> programmers original intention. You can then restrict this
> polymorphism by giving explicit less general types in the
> same way as in my examples. I think my approach is more
> Haskel like.
> Another important Haskel design consideration is to reuse
> parts of the language where possible, rather than
> introduce new structures. Type classes were originally
> introduced to deal with equality and numeric functions,
> but were reused for many things including monads. My
> approach achieves the same as DORF (and more), but using
> existing language features instead of introducing new
> ones.
> Barney.
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