BAM Weblog

Bottom-up Type Annotation with the Cofree Comonad

Brian McKenna — 2013-07-06

This is also a Gist for you to clone and use runhaskell on

How do we add extra information to a tree? This has been called The AST Typing Problem.

After being hit with this problem in Roy’s new type-inference engine, I tried figuring out how to represent the algorithm. I eventually realised that it looked like a comonadic operation. Turns out it’s been done before but I couldn’t find any complete example.

Below is some literate Haskell to show how to use the Cofree Comonad to perform bottom-up, constraint-based type-inference. It’s essentially a tiny version of how Roy’s new type-system works.

{-# LANGUAGE DeriveFoldable #-}
{-# LANGUAGE DeriveFunctor #-}
{-# LANGUAGE DeriveTraversable #-}
{-# LANGUAGE StandaloneDeriving #-}

module CofreeTree where

import Prelude hiding (sequence)

import Control.Comonad
import Control.Comonad.Cofree
import Control.Monad.State hiding (sequence)
import Data.Foldable (Foldable, fold)
import Data.Maybe (fromMaybe)
import Data.Monoid
import Data.Traversable (Traversable, sequence)
import qualified Data.Map as M

Our little language is an extended lambda calculus with integer and string literals. The interesting thing here is that the AST doesn’t specify (AST a) for recursion, only a - this gives us more flexibility; we can have a node that isn’t recursive or even a special type of recursion (e.g. we’ll eventually get annotated recursion).

data AST a = ALambda String a
           | AApply a a
           | ANumber Int
           | AString String
           | AIdent String

But for now we want a normal recursive AST. If we use a fixed-point we can get a normal one using Mu AST.

newtype Mu f = Mu (f (Mu f))

Now it’s surprisingly easy to create an unattributed AST. Our example will use the following lambda expression: (λx.x)2

example :: Mu AST
example = Mu $ AApply (Mu . ALambda "x" . Mu $ AIdent "x") (Mu $ ANumber 2)

Later on we’ll need to be able to traverse the AST and store it in a map.

deriving instance Show a => Show (AST a)
deriving instance Functor AST
deriving instance Foldable AST
deriving instance Traversable AST
deriving instance Eq a => Eq (AST a)
deriving instance Ord a => Ord (AST a)

We’re going to add types to our AST. TVar is a parametric type. For example, the type α → α is represented as TLambda (TVar 0) (TVar 0).

data Type = TLambda Type Type
          | TVar Int
          | TNumber
          | TString

deriving instance Show Type

Bottom-up inference works by generating constraints required to calculate the type of each node and propagating them up to the top level, then solving them.

Our example will only use an equality constraint, asserting that two types can unify. This should be easy to extend, allowing things like let-polymorphism or type-classes.

data Constraint = EqualityConstraint Type Type

deriving instance Show Constraint

Each step of the inference algorithm will give us a set of constraints and possibly a map of assumptions from identifier to type. For example we could get a set of {α ≡ TNumber, β ≡ TString} with assumptions of {hello = {α}}. We can combine the results of multiple steps using a monoid instance.

data TypeResult = TypeResult {
      constraints :: [Constraint],
      assumptions :: M.Map String [Type]

deriving instance Show TypeResult

instance Monoid TypeResult where
    mempty = TypeResult {
               constraints = mempty,
               assumptions = mempty
    mappend a b = TypeResult {
                             constraints = constraints a `mappend` constraints b,
                             assumptions = assumptions a `mappend` assumptions b

We need to keep track of some state during the inference process. We need the next fresh variable ID and a memoisation map for the result of inference per AST node.

data TypeState t m = TypeState {
      varId :: Int,
      memo :: M.Map t m

Each node will return a type along with its constraints and assumptions. Since we’ll be using that a lot inside of the State Monad, we’ll define an alias.

type TypeCheck t = State (TypeState t (Type, TypeResult)) (Type, TypeResult)

We have a function to retrieve the next fresh type variable and then update the ID.

freshVarId :: State (TypeState t m) Type
freshVarId = do
  v <- gets varId
  modify $ \s -> s { varId = succ v }
  return $ TVar v

We’ll always want to memoise the result of each step so we define a memoiser that takes the type-inferencing function and stores the results in the memo map.

memoizedTC :: Ord c => (c -> TypeCheck c) -> c -> TypeCheck c
memoizedTC f c = gets memo >>= maybe memoize return . M.lookup c where
    memoize = do
      r <- f c
      modify $ \s -> s { memo = M.insert c r $ memo s }
      return r

We need to convert our example AST from Mu into Cofree. Cofree takes a parameterised type and makes it recursive with each step having an attribute. Our initial attribution will be unit (i.e. we’ll initially use Cofree just for the recursive comonadic structure).

cofreeMu :: Functor f => Mu f -> Cofree f ()
cofreeMu (Mu f) = () :< fmap cofreeMu f

The real annotation function will take a unit annotated Cofree AST then do a comonadic extend so that each node is annotated with its type and state. Fairly easy.

But we’ll get a Cofree where each attribute is a State operation. We can sequence to get a combined State of a Cofree AST. Then we can run the State to get just a Cofree AST with our attributes!

attribute :: Cofree AST () -> Cofree AST (Type, TypeResult)
attribute c =
    let initial = TypeState { memo = M.empty, varId = 0 }
    in evalState (sequence $ extend (memoizedTC generateConstraints) c) initial

Let’s take a look at the comonadic operation which generates a type along with its constraints and assumptions.

generateConstraints :: Cofree AST () -> TypeCheck (Cofree AST ())

Literals are trivial. They don’t need any constraints or assumptions. We immediately know their type.

generateConstraints (() :< ANumber _) = return (TNumber, mempty)
generateConstraints (() :< AString _) = return (TString, mempty)

Using an identifier just creates a fresh type variable and puts it in the assumption map.

generateConstraints (() :< AIdent s) = do
  var <- freshVarId
  return (var, TypeResult {
                   constraints = [],
                   assumptions = M.singleton s [var]

A memoised recursive call to the lambda’s body is used for the lambda’s return type and for propagating constraints. Lambdas take the name of their bound variable out of the body’s assumption map and turn it into a constraint for the input of the returned lambda type.

generateConstraints (() :< ALambda s b) = do
  var <- freshVarId
  br <- memoizedTC generateConstraints b
  let cs = maybe [] (map $ EqualityConstraint var) (M.lookup s . assumptions $ snd br)
      as = M.delete s . assumptions $ snd br
  return (TLambda var (fst br), TypeResult {
                        constraints = constraints (snd br) `mappend` cs,
                        assumptions = as

Lambda application generates constraints for the lambda and the argument. It then generates a fresh type variable to use as the return type and; a constraint that the lambda can take the argument and returns the type variable.

generateConstraints (() :< AApply a b) = do
  var <- freshVarId
  ar <- memoizedTC generateConstraints a
  br <- memoizedTC generateConstraints b
  return (var, snd ar `mappend` snd br `mappend` TypeResult {
                   constraints = [EqualityConstraint (fst ar) $ TLambda (fst br) var],
                   assumptions = mempty

To be able to get a type for the AST, we’ll need to solve all of the constraints. Solving equality constraints is easy, we just try to unify them which will give a substitution map of type variable ID to type. We need to put a constraint through that substitution map before trying to solve it, so that we know we have the latest information about its type variables.

solveConstraints :: [Constraint] -> Maybe (M.Map Int Type)
solveConstraints =
    foldl (\b a -> liftM2 mappend (solve b a) b) $ Just M.empty
          where solve maybeSubs (EqualityConstraint a b) = do
                  subs <- maybeSubs
                  mostGeneralUnifier (substitute subs a) (substitute subs b)

So given two types, we need to be able to get a map of substitutions if the types unify.

mostGeneralUnifier :: Type -> Type -> Maybe (M.Map Int Type)

If one side is a type variable, then we map that type variable ID to the type on the other side.

mostGeneralUnifier (TVar i) b = Just $ M.singleton i b
mostGeneralUnifier a (TVar i) = Just $ M.singleton i a

When both sides are obviously the same, they can unify with just an empty substitution map.

mostGeneralUnifier TNumber TNumber = Just M.empty
mostGeneralUnifier TString TString = Just M.empty

Lambdas must unify their bound variables and then their bodies. They must also substitute type variables as soon as they have information about them.

mostGeneralUnifier (TLambda a b) (TLambda c d) = do
    s1 <- mostGeneralUnifier a c
    liftM2 mappend (mostGeneralUnifier (substitute s1 b) (substitute s1 d)) $ Just s1

If none of the above cases apply then the types can’t be the same and therefore don’t unify.

mostGeneralUnifier _ _ = Nothing

The type substitution using a substitution map is very simple. Type variables don’t get substituted if they don’t exist in the substitution map.

substitute :: M.Map Int Type -> Type -> Type
substitute subs v@(TVar i) = maybe v (substitute subs) $ M.lookup i subs
substitute subs (TLambda a b) = TLambda (substitute subs a) (substitute subs b)
substitute _ t = t

Now we can put it all together. We attribute the tree to get a type and its constraints. We then solve those constraints to get a substitution map. Finally, we can map over each AST node, discarding the constraints and applying the substitution map to get a final type.

typeTree :: Cofree AST () -> Maybe (Cofree AST Type)
typeTree c =
    let result = attribute c
        (r :< _) = result
        maybeSubs = solveConstraints . constraints $ snd r
    in fmap (\subs -> fmap (substitute subs . fst) result) maybeSubs

Now we can go back to the cofreeMu example we wrote above and print:

  1. The AST
  2. The AST attributed with constraints, assumptions and unsolved types
  3. The AST with solved types

From main:

main :: IO ()
main = do
  print $ cofreeMu example
  print . attribute $ cofreeMu example
  print . typeTree $ cofreeMu example

The last is the most interesting:

  (TNumber :< AApply
    (TLambda TNumber TNumber :< ALambda "x"
      (TNumber :< AIdent "x"))
    (TNumber :< ANumber 2))

Awesome. Does exactly what we want. It seems like the type system allows easy extension. We could even add extra comonadic operations for different phases of the compiler, like annotating nodes with type-class dictionaries.

But I can think of two problems with this comonadic approach:

  1. We have to explicitly sequence comonadic phases. It’d be better if we could annotate the AST with a semigroup and then append different phases in parallel but then we’d probably lose type-safety when trying to retrieve an attribute.

  2. The memoisation is annoying and seems to reflect the way we’re traversing using a comonad. But then, doing it without Cofree seems even more annoying.

Anyway, time to translate the above to JavaScript

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