[Haskell-cafe] Is there already an abstraction for this?

ajb at spamcop.net ajb at spamcop.net
Wed Sep 24 01:36:49 EDT 2008


Quoting Jeremy Shaw <jeremy at n-heptane.com>:

> I have an expression data-type:
>> data Expr
>>    = Quotient Expr Expr
>>    | Product Expr Expr
>>    | Sum Expr Expr
>>    | Difference Expr Expr
>>    | Lit Double
>>    | Var Char
>>      deriving (Eq, Ord, Data, Typeable, Read, Show)

> And I want to write a function that will take an expression and
> automatically apply the identity laws to simplify the expression.


> I would also be interested in alternative approaches besides the ones
> I outlined.

A low-tech alternative that would work here is to use smart
constructors.  This approach avoids non-termination, and allows for
quite general transformations.


sum :: Expr -> Expr -> Expr
sum (Lit 0) y = y
sum x (Lit 0) = x
sum (Lit x) (Lit y) = lit (x+y)  -- Call smart constructors recursively
sum (Var v1) (Var v2) | v1 == v2 = product (Lit 2) (Var v1) -- Guards are OK
sum x y@(Sum _ _)
     = foldl1 sum x . getTerms y $ []
         -- So is complex stuff.
         -- This is a simple version, but it's also not too hard to write
         -- something which rewrites (x + 1) + (y + 2) to (x + y) + 3, say.
         -- Applying the Risch structure theorem is left as an exercise.
         getTerms (Sum x y) = getTerms x . getTerms y
         getTerms e = (e:)
sum x y = Sum x y  -- And here's the default case

lit :: Double -> Expr
lit = Lit -- Some constructors are trivial.  Include them anyway.

You can now either aggressively replace instances of data constructors
with smart ones (except within the smart constructors themselves!) or
write a single traversal which rewrites an expression:

simplify :: Expr -> Expr
simplify (Sum x y) = sum (simplify x) (simplify y)
simplify (Lit x) = lit x
-- etc etc

Andrew Bromage

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