Version 7 (modified by nr, 11 years ago) (diff)


The data type Type and its friends

GHC's compiles a typed programming lanuage, and GHC's intermediate language is explicitly typed. So the data type that GHC uses to represent types is of central importance.

The first thing to realise is that GHC uses a single data type for types, even though there are two different "views".

  • The "typechecker view" (or "source view") regards the type as a Haskell type, complete with implicit parameters, class constraints, and the like. For example:
      forall a. (Eq a, %x::Int) => a -> Int
  • The "core view" regards the type as a Core-language type, where class and implicit parameter constraints are treated as function arguments:
      forall a. Eq a -> Int -> a -> Int

These two "views" are supported by a family of functions operating over that view:

The "view" functions are shallow, not deep---a view function just looks at the root of the tree representing the type. This leads to a nice programming idiom in which a case can be guarded by {{Just t' <- coreView t}}, which unfortunately the margin of this Wiki is too small to contain.

The module TypeRep exposes the representation becauese a few other modules (Type, TcType, Unify, etc) work directly on its representation. However, you should not lightly pattern-match on Type; it is meant to be an abstract type. Instead, try to use functions defined by Type, TcType etc.

The single data type Type is used to represent

  • Types (possibly of higher kind); e.g. [Int], Maybe
  • Coercions; e.g. trans (sym g) h
  • Kinds (which classify types and coercions); e.g. (* -> *), T :=: [Int]
  • Sorts (which classify types); e.g. TY, CO

GHC's use of coercions and equality constraints is important enough to deserve its own page.

The representation of Type

Here, then is the representation of types (see compiler/types/TypeRep.lhs for more details):

data Type = TyVarTy TyVar			-- Type variable
  	  | AppTy Type Type			-- Application
  	  | TyConApp TyCon [Type]		-- Type constructor application
  	  | FunTy Type Type			-- Arrow type
  	  | ForAllTy TyVar Type			-- Polymorphic type
  	  | PredTy PredType			-- Type constraint
  	  | NoteTy TyNote Type			-- Annotation

data PredType = ClassP Class [Type]		-- Class predicate
              | IParam (IPName Name) Type	-- Implicit parameter
              | EqPred Type Type		-- Equality predicate (ty1 :=: ty2)

data TyNote = FTVNote TyVarSet	-- The free type variables of the noted expression

Invariant: if the head of a type application is a TyCon, GHC always uses the TyConApp constructor, not AppTy. This invariant is maintained internally by 'smart constructors'. A similar invariant applies to FunTy; TyConApp is never used with an arrow type.


Kinds are represented as types:

type Kind = Type

Basic kinds are now represented using type constructors, e.g. the kind * is represented as

liftedTypeKind :: Kind
liftedTypeKind = TyConApp liftedTypeKindTyCon []

where liftedTypeKindTyCon is a built-in PrimTyCon. The arrow type constructor is used as the arrow kind constructor, e.g. the kind * ->* is represented internally as

FunTy liftedTypeKind liftedTypeKind

It's easy to extract the kind of a type, or the sort of a kind:

typeKind :: Type -> Kind

The "sort" of a kind is always one of the sorts: TY (for kinds that classify normal types) or CO (for kinds that classify coercion evidence). The coercion kind, T1 :=: T2, is represented by PredTy (EqPred T1 T2).

Type variables

Type variables are represented by the TyVar constructor of the data type Var.

Type variables range over both types (possibly of higher kind) or coercions. You could tell the differnece between these two by taking the typeKind of the kind of the type variable, adn seeing if you have sort TY or CO, but for efficiency the TyVar keeps a boolean flag, and offes a function:

  isCoercionVar :: TyVar -> Bool

Classifying types

GHC uses the following nomenclature for types:

A type is unboxed iff its representation is other than a pointer. Unboxed types are also unlifted.
A type is lifted iff it has bottom as an element. Closures always have lifted types: i.e. any let-bound identifier in Core must have a lifted type. Operationally, a lifted object is one that can be entered. Only lifted types may be unified with a type variable.
A type declared with data. Also boxed tuples.
An algebraic data type is a data type with one or more constructors, whether declared with data or newtype. An algebraic type is one that can be deconstructed with a case expression. "Algebraic" is NOT the same as "lifted", because unboxed tuples count as "algebraic".
a type is primitive iff it is a built-in type that can't be expressed in Haskell. Currently, all primitive types are unlifted, but that's not necessarily the case. (E.g. Int could be primitive.)

Some primitive types are unboxed, such as Int#, whereas some are boxed but unlifted (such as ByteArray#). The only primitive types that we classify as algebraic are the unboxed tuples.

Examples of type classifications:

Primitive Boxed Lifted Algebraic
Int# Yes No No No
ByteArray# Yes Yes No No
(# a, b #) Yes No No Yes
( a, b ) No Yes Yes Yes
[a] No Yes Yes Yes