David Feuer
Sun, 12 May 2002 21:03:35 -0400

On Sun, May 12, 2002, Emre Tezel wrote:
> Hi all,
> I recently bought Simon Thompson's Haskell book. I have been doing the 
> exercises while I read on. There are couple questions that I can not 
> solve. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
> I got stuck on this question in Chapter 10.
> Define a function composeList which composes a list of functions into a 
> single function. What is the type of composeList?
> I naively tried the following but the hugs compiler complained about the 
> inferred type not being generic enough.
> composeList :: [(a -> b)] -> (c -> b)
> composeList [] = id
> composeList (x:xs) = x . (composeList xs)

The type signature is wrong.  It indicates that for any a,b,c, and d,
composeList takes a list of (a->b) and produces a (c->b).  So for
example, that would mean that if I gave it [(+3), (*4), (-5)] it would
be able to produce something of type (Maybe String -> Int).  This is of
course totally wrong.  You're going to have to restrict it some more .  The first
thing to note is that a=c: if you give it a list of functions that take
Floats, it's going to give back a function that takes a float.  So that
restricts it to [a -> b] -> (a -> b).  Now look at the function itself:

composeList (x:xs) = x . (composeList xs)

Now in order for f . g to make any sense, f must take values of the type
that g returns!  So if x has type p -> q, (composeList xs) must have
type r -> p.  But since x is in xs, xs must have type [p -> q], so
(composeList xs) has type p -> q.  So r -> p = p -> q.  This implies
immediately that p = q = r.  So the type of composeList is restricted
all the way down to [a -> a] -> (a -> a).  This can also be written
[a -> a] -> a -> a.  This may seem disappointing, but it is made
necessary by the type safety of Haskell, which requires that all the
elements of a list have the same type.

You can do a lot better in Glasgow Haskell:

data Fun a b = forall c . Comp (c -> b) (Fun a c) | End (a -> b)

compose :: Fun a b -> a -> b   --GHC needs this type signature
                               --to compile the program, but
                               --I don't understand why.
                               --Any tips?
compose (End f) = f
compose (Comp f l) = f . compose l

f::Int -> Float
f x = fromIntegral x

g::String -> Int
g = read

h::Int -> String
h x = take x "123456789"

main = do
   putStrLn "hello!"
   print $ compose (End (\x -> "Foo!")) 3
   print $ compose (Comp f (Comp g (End h))) 4

Night.  An owl flies o'er rooftops.  The moon sheds its soft light upon
the trees.
David Feuer