empty case, empty definitions

Isaac Dupree isaacdupree at charter.net
Fri Aug 15 13:34:14 EDT 2008

There are two separate parts I propose, the second one I'm 
less sure of, but they're somewhat related.

1. Allow empty case, i.e. "case some_variable of { }" (GHC 
ticket [1]).  This adds consistency, it always causes a 
pattern-match error, and it is a sensible way to look at all 
the cases of types with no constructors (recall 
EmptyDataDecls will probably be in Haskell' [4]) -- 
especially for automatic tools (or programmers familiar with 
dependent types; GADTs have some of these effects :-)). 
Presumably, any time that some_variable could be non-bottom, 
GHC will warn about the incomplete patterns :-).

2. When a type signature for a function is given, allow to 
not define any patterns (GHC ticket [2]).  The result of 
calling the function is a pattern match failure (presumably 
the source-location given for the match failure will be the 
location of the type-signature).  This can also be useful 
for calling functions before implementing them, helping the 
type-checker help me do incremental work (again, obviously 
produces a warning if the function could possibly be 

However I can think of a few things this (proposal 2) could 
interfere with:
2.i. Implementing a class method, will you get the default 
if that method has a default?  Actually it turns out to be 
class C n where
   foo :: n -> n
   foo = id
instance C Int where
   foo :: Int -> Int
   --even if we define foo here too, it's an error:
   --misplaced type signature (perhaps thanks to improved
   --error messages, thanks simonpj! [5]).
   --Anyway, I think type signatures ought to be allowed here.
I propose to allow type-signatures in instances, which must 
be equivalent to the signature in the class declaration 
after the class's signature is specialized to the particular 
instance type(s).  If such a type-signature is found, allow 
the function to be defined as normal, which includes, if 
there are no patterns, an error if proposal 2 isn't adopted, 
and a pattern-match failure if proposal 2 is adopted.
(also it turns out that pattern bindings aren't allowed in 
instances, such as {instance C Int where (foo) = negate}, 
but I can't say I have a compelling use-case for that!:-))

2.ii. It could interfere with another feature request of 
mine (though I'm not sure I want it anymore) (GHC ticket 
[3]) : I'd like it to be allowed to give a (possibly more 
restrictive?) type signature at the top level of a module, 
to a function imported unqualified.  Obviously in this case 
I don't want the function to be treated as pattern-match 
failure; but I think we can tell the difference because the 
name is in-scope in this case. Luckily there is no negative 
interaction with my related proposal to simply allow 
multiple equivalent type-signatures anywhere one of them is 
allowed in a declaration-list.

So actually, in summary I can't really see anything wrong 
with proposal 2, especially if my proposal under 2.i. is 

[1] http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/ghc/ticket/2431
[2] http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/ghc/ticket/393
[3] http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/ghc/ticket/1404
[5] http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/ghc/ticket/1310

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