[Haskell-cafe] Re: Existentially-quantified constructors: Hugs is fine, GHC is not?

Ben Rudiak-Gould Benjamin.Rudiak-Gould at cl.cam.ac.uk
Thu May 11 08:46:43 EDT 2006

Otakar Smrz wrote:
>    data ... = ... | forall b . FMap (b -> a) (Mapper s b)
>    ... where FMap qf qc = stripFMap f q
> the GHC compiler as well as GHCi (6.4.2 and earlier) issue an error
>     My brain just exploded.
>     I can't handle pattern bindings for existentially-quantified
>     constructors.

The problem here is a tricky interaction between irrefutable pattern 
matching and existential tuples. In Core, the FMap constructor has a third 
field which stores the type b, and when you match against the pattern (FMap 
qf qc) you're really matching against (FMap b qf qc). (stripFMap f q) might 
evaluate to _|_, in which case, according to the rules for irrefutable 
matching, all of the pattern variables have to be bound to _|_. But type 
variables (like b) can't be bound to _|_.

 From an operational standpoint, the problem is that the (fully-evaluated) 
value of b has to be available in the body of the let statement, which means 
that (stripFMap f q) must be evaluated before the body, and the let 
statement must diverge without reaching the body if (stripFMap f q) 
diverges, since no value can be assigned to b in that case. But the 
semantics of let clearly require that execution always proceed to the body 
no matter what (stripFMap f q) evaluates to.

So I'm not convinced that your program is well-typed, even though it looks 
fine at first. I'm not sure what happens to Haskell's semantics when you 
allow type variables to be bound to _|_. The fact that Hugs allows it may be 
a bug.

-- Ben

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