Decomposition of given equalities

Richard Eisenberg eir at
Thu Dec 19 15:01:33 UTC 2013

Let me revise slightly. GHC wouldn't guess that f3 would be f just because f is the only well-kinded thing in sight.

Instead, it would use (f2 i ~ a) to reduce the target equality, (f3 i2 ~ a), to (f3 i2 ~ f2 i). It would then try to break this down into (f3 ~ f2) and (i2 ~ i). Here is where the kind problem comes in -- these equalities are ill-kinded. So, GHC (rightly, in my view) rejects this code, and reports an appropriate error message. Of course, more context in the error message might be an improvement, but I don't think the current message is wrong.

As for Thijs's comment about lack of decomposition in GHC 7.6.3: You're right, that code fails in GHC 7.6.3 because of an attempt (present in GHC 7.6.x) to redesign the Core type system to allow for unsaturated type families (at least in Core, if not in Haskell). There were a few cases that came up that the redesign couldn't handle, like Thijs's. So, the redesign was abandoned. In GHC HEAD, Thijs's code works just fine.

(The redesign was to get rid of the "left" and "right" coercions, which allow decomposition of things like (f a ~ g b), in favor of an "nth" coercion, which allows decomposition of things like (T a ~ T b).)

Good -- I feel much better about this answer, where there's no guess for the value of f3!


On Dec 18, 2013, at 11:30 PM, Richard Eisenberg wrote:

> I'd say GHC has it right in this case.
> (f a ~ g b) exactly implies (f ~ g) and (a ~ b) if and only if the kinds match up. If, say, (f :: k1 -> *), (g :: k2 -> *), (a :: k1), and (b :: k2), then (f ~ g) and (a ~ b) are ill-kinded. In Gabor's initial problem, we have (with all type, kind, and coercion variables made explicit)
>> data InnerEq (j :: BOX) (k :: BOX) (i :: j) (a :: k) where
>>  InnerEq :: forall (f :: j -> k). f i ~ a => InnerEq j k i a
>> class TypeCompare (k :: BOX) (t :: k -> *) where
>>  maybeInnerEq :: forall (j :: BOX) (f :: j -> k) (i :: j) (a :: k).
>>                  t (f i) -> t a -> Maybe (InnerEq j k i a)
>> instance forall (j :: BOX) (k :: BOX) (i :: j). TypeCompare k (InnerEq j k i) where
>>  maybeInnerEq :: forall (j2 :: BOX) (f :: j2 -> k) (i2 :: j2) (a :: k).
>>                  InnerEq j k i (f i2) -> InnerEq j k i a -> Maybe (InnerEq j2 k i2 a)
>>  maybeInnerEq (InnerEq (f1 :: j -> k) (co1 :: f1 i ~ f i2))
>>               (InnerEq (f2 :: j -> k) (co2 :: f2 i ~ a))    
>>    = Just (InnerEq (f3 :: j2 -> k) (co3 :: f3 i2 ~ a))
> GHC must infer `f3` and `co3`. The only thing of kind `j2 -> k` lying around is f. So, we choose f3 := f. Now, we need to prove `f i2 ~ a`. Using the two equalities we have, we can rewrite this as a need
> to prove `f1 i ~ f2 i`. I can't see a way of doing this. Now, GHC complains that it cannot (renaming to my variables) deduce (i ~ i2) from (f1 i ~ f i2). But, this is exactly the case where the kinds *don't* match up. So, I agree that GHC can't deduce that equality, but I think that, even if it could, it wouldn't be able to type-check the whole term.... unless I've made a mistake somewhere.
> I don't see an immediate way to fix the problem, but I haven't thought much about it.
> Does this help? Does anyone see a mistake in what I've done?
> Richard
> On Dec 18, 2013, at 6:38 PM, Gábor Lehel <glaebhoerl at> wrote:
>> Hello,
>> The upcoming GHC 7.8 recently gave me this error:
>>   Could not deduce (i ~ i1)
>>   from the context (f1 i ~ f i1)
>> Which is strange to me: shouldn't (f1 i ~ f i1) exactly imply (f1 ~ f,
>> i ~ i1)? (Or with nicer variable names: (f a ~ g b) => (f ~ g, a ~
>> b)?)
>> When I inquired about this in #haskell on IRC, a person going by the
>> name xnyhps had this to say:
>>> I've also noticed that, given type equality constraints are never decomposed. I'm quite curious why.
>> and later:
>>> It's especially weird because a given f a ~ g b can not be used to solve a wanted f a ~ g b, because the wanted constraint is decomposed before it can interact with the given constraint.
>> I'm not quite so well versed in the workings of GHC's type checker as
>> she or he is, but I don't understand why it's this way either.
>> Is this a relic of and
>> Is there a principled
>> reason this shouldn't be true? Is it an intentional limitation of the
>> constraint solver? Or is it just a bug?
>> Thanks in advance,
>> Gábor
>> P.S. I got the error on this line:
>> possibly after having added kind annotations to `InnerEq` (which also
>> gets a less general kind inferred than the one I expect). If it's
>> important I can try to create a reduced test case.
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