[Haskell-cafe] Re: exceptions vs. Either

Alastair Reid alastair at reid-consulting-uk.ltd.uk
Sat Aug 7 04:12:35 EDT 2004

> This sounds very tedious!  The right thing to do if you don't handle
> them, is of course to propagate exceptions up; however, then you need
> to update a 'throws' clause as you modify your implementation.
> Sounds like a job for...Type Inference!  Wouldn't it be nice if GHCi
> and Hugs' ":i foo" would tell you about the exceptions it could throw?

Do you just want exceptions to be displayed by an interpreter or do you want 
them used in the compiler (i.e., part of the Haskell language).

I think it is straightforward enough to annotate expressions with the 
exceptions they can raise.  As a first attempt, I'll use e :: ty^ex to 
indicate that an expression e has type ty and can raise exceptions ex.

  1/0                     :: Int^DivZero
  [1/i | i <- [0..]]      :: [Int^DivZero]
  head [1/i | i <- [0..]] :: Int^{DivZero,Head_Empty}

There's a few problems with simply adding this to Hugs/GHC as they stand 

1) The exception parts of the types I showed should be types but, at 
   present they are values.
2) Since exceptions accumulate towards the root, it's common to have a 
   way of summarising a set of exceptions.  Usually, this is done using
   some notion of inheritance so that numeric overflow, division by zero,
   etc might be summarized as 'ArithmeticError'.
   (Often the inheritance graph is a tree but I suspect it would be useful
   to have a DAG and to be able to define your own DAG just as you can
   define your own inheritance using type classes.)
3) This doesn't take the non-deterministic part of Haskell exceptions
   into account.  Implementing the rules in the paper would be a good way
   of checking that the rules capture all the transformations that 
   compilers like GHC do.  Of course, to do this, you really need to push
   the exception-types all the way through the optimizer since it is the 
   optimizer that introduces non-determinism.

Alastair Reid

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