[Haskell-cafe] Is it possible to change the environment (reader) in applicative style?

Ivan Perez ivanperezdominguez at gmail.com
Wed Sep 12 08:09:51 UTC 2018

On 11 September 2018 at 21:50, Rodrigo Stevaux <roehst at gmail.com> wrote:

> It is easy to read an environment in applicative style, ie:
> type Env = [(String, Int)]
> data Term = Add Term Term | Number Int | Var String deriving Show
> eval :: Term -> Env -> Int
> eval (Add a b) = (+) <$> eval a <*> eval b
> eval (Var name) = fetch name
> eval (Number i) = pure i
> fetch :: String -> Env -> Int
> fetch name = fromJust . lookup name
> But can the eval function change the Env being passed, as to implement
> a "let" operation, without using monads? I tried I lot but ultimately
> I resorted to (>>=) in the function monad:
> bind f k = \r -> k (f r) r

I think what you mean is something like: can we extend Term with a let
binding expression and implement eval using applicative interface without

I think we can, and it's a bit awkward, but possible, because of the Reader

A trivial way of introducing let that does not manifest the issues you
point out is

data Term = Add Term Term | Number Int | Var String | Let String Int Term

You can then implement the case for eval with

eval (Let s v t) = eval t . update s v

where the function update simply updates a value in the associative list. A
simple implementation is:

update :: Ord a => a -> b -> [(a, b)] -> [(a, b)]
update s v = nubBy eqFst . insertBy cmpFst (s, v)
    eqFst  x y = (==)    (fst x) (fst y)
    cmpFst x y = compare (fst x) (fst y)

Of course, this does not need the monad interface, but it does not really
need the applicative interface to evaluate the term either (except
indirectly in eval t).

Perhaps a more interesting alternative is:

data Term = ... | LetT String Term Term

where the other cases in Term remain the same. Now you need to eval the
first term to change the environment, which is, I guess, what you wanted?

You can do this combining composition with applicative:

eval (LetT s t1 t2) = eval t2 . (update' <*> pure s <*> eval t1)
    update' :: Env -> String -> Int -> Env
    update' e s v = update s v e

And a test (which is equivalent to let b = a + 8 in b + 1):

*Main> eval (LetT "b" (Add (Number 8) (Var "a")) (Add (Number 1) (Var
"b"))) [("a", 7)]

> I do not think so, because in applicative style each operand can have
> an effect (reading the environment) but can not affect other operands
> (including the next ones), i.e., there is no notion of sequencing in
> applicatives
> Is this reasoning right?

As Tom pointed out, not 100%, not generally, I think. This seems to be
specific to the reader monad.

All the best,

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