Version 7 (modified by augustss, 3 years ago) (diff)


Pattern Synonyms

Most language entities in Haskell can be named so that they can be abbreviated instead of written out in full. This proposal provides the same power for patterns.

Motivating example

Here is a simple representation of types

    data Type = App String [Type]

Using this representations the arrow type looks like App "->" [t1, t2]. Here are functions to collect are all argument types of nested arrows and recognizing the Int type:

   collectArgs :: Type -> [Type]
   collectArgs (App "->" [t1, t2]) = t1 : collectArgs t2
   collectArgs _ = []

   isInt (App "Int" []) = True
   isInt _ = False

Matching on the arrow type is both hard to read and error prone to write.

The proposal is to introduce a way to give pattern names:

   pattern Arrow t1 t2 = App "->" [t1, t2]
   pattern Int = App "Int" []

And now we can write

   collectArgs :: Type -> [Type]
   collectArgs (Arrow t1 t2) = t1 : collectArgs t2
   collectArgs _ = []

   isInt Int = True
   isInt _ = False

Furthermore, the pattern synonym can also be used in expressions, e.g.,

   arrows :: [Type] -> Type -> Type
   arrows = foldr Arrow

Simple pattern synonyms

The simplest form of pattern synonyms is the one from the examples above. The grammar rule is simply:

pattern conid varid1 ... varidn = patexp

where patexp is simply the intersection of the grammars for patterns and expression, i.e., those terms that are valid both as a pattern and as an expressions.

  • Each of the variables on the left hand side must occur exactly one on the right hand side, and these are the only variables that can be mention on the right hand side.
  • Pattern synonyms are not allowed to be recursive. Cf. type synonyms.
  • The semantics is simply given by expansion of the synonym.

Pattern synonyms can be exported and imported by mentioning the conid in the export/import list. Note that this suffers from the same constructor vs type confusion that already exists in hiding list, i.e., given the mention of a conid you cannot tell if it refers to a constructor or a type.

You may also give a type signature for a pattern, but as with most other type signatures in Haskell it is optional:

pattern conid :: type


   pattern Arrow :: Type -> Type -> Type
   pattern Arrow t1 t2 = App "->" [t1, t2]

Pattern only synonyms

The simple patterns synonyms are restricted to having a right hand side that is also a valid expression. The pattern only synonyms can have any pattern on the right hand side, but may only be used in patterns.

pattern conid varid1 ... varidn = pat

Again, each of the variables on the left hand side must be mentioned exactly once of the right hand side, but the right hand side can mention other variables as well. These variables will not be bound by using the pattern synonyms.


   pattern ThirdElem x = _:_:x:_
   pattern LazySecond a b ~ (a, ~b)

   third (ThirdElem a) = a
   third _ = error "No third"

   fcn :: (Int, (Int, Int))
   fcn (LazySecond x (y, z)) = if x == 0 then 0 else y+z

And their expansions

   third (_:_:a:_) = a
   third _ = error "No third"

   fcn :: (Int, (Int, Int))
   fcn (x, ~(y, z)) = if x == 0 then 0 else y+z

Together with ViewPatternsAlternative we can now create patterns that look like regular patterns to match on existing (perhaps abstract) types in new ways.

   pattern Plus1 n = n1 | let n = n1-1, n >= 0

   fac 0 = 0
   fac (Plus1 n) = (n+1) * fac n 

Note that the right hand side of Plus1 binds n1 and n, but since only n is mentioned on the left hand side it is the only variable that gets bound when Plus1 is used.

Bidirectional pattern synonyms

What if you want to use Plus1 from the earlier example in an expression. It's clearly impossible since its expansion is a pattern that has no meaning as an expression. Nevertheless, if we want to make what looks like constructors for a type we will often want to use them in both patterns and expressions. This is the rational for the most complicated synonyms, the bidirectional ones. They provide two expansions, one for patterns and one for expressions.

pattern conid varid1 ... varidn = pat where cfunlhs rhs

where cfunlhs is like funlhs, except that the functions symbol is a conid instead of a varid.


   pattern Plus1 n = n1 | let n = n1-1, n >= 0 where
      Plus1 n = n + 1

The first part as is before and describes the expansion of the synonym in patterns, whereas the second describes the expansion in expressions.

   fac 0 = 0
   fac (Plus1 n) = Plus1 n * fac n 

Associated Patterns Synonyms

Just like data types and type synonyms can be part of a class declaration, it would be possible to have pattern synonyms as well.


   class ListLike l where
      pattern Nil :: l a
      pattern Cons :: a -> l a -> a
      isNil :: l a -> Bool
      isNil Nil = True
      isNil (Cons _ _) = False
      append :: l a -> l a -> l a

   instance ListLike [] where
      pattern Nil = []
      pattern Cons x xs = x:xs
      append = (++)

   headOf :: (ListLike l) => l a -> Maybe a
   headOf Nil = Nothing
   headOf (Const x _) = Just x