No Record Selector Functions

This proposal is a precursor to overloaded record fields. It's also a modest step towards freeing up the namespace, without in any way pre-judging how the 'narrow namespace issue' might get addressed. Ticket #5972.

There is to be a compiler flag -XNoRecordSelectorFunctions. (Default value ‑XRecordSelectorFunctions, to give H98 behaviour.)

-XNoRecordSelectorFunctions suppresses creating the field selector function from the field name in a record-style data declaration.

Suppressing the function frees up the namespace, to be able to experiment with various record/field approaches -- including the 'cottage industry' of Template Haskell solutions.

In particular, this means we can declare more than one record type within a module using the same field name.

-XNoRecordSelectorFunctions implies -XDisambiguateRecordFields -- otherwise the only way to access record fields would be positionally. It also implies ‑XNamedFieldPuns and ‑XRecordWildCards to support field access and update. (IMHO, suppressing the field selector function should always have been part of -XDisambiguateRecordFields. I'm by no means the first to make that observation.)

  • Note that the field name is still valid within the scope of a pattern match, or record update inside the MkT{...} explicit constructor syntax.
  • But record update won't work, because the field name alone doesn't uniquely identify the record type.
    (That is, the syntax with a record or expression prefix to the braces e{ x = True } -- there might be multiple record types declared in the module with field name x.)

Example use case: (referred from an old Wiki discussion on TDNR .)

See also thread starting: (and continuing through February), which initially considers nested modules as an approach for namespacing.

Import/Export? and Representation hiding

Since there is no field selector function created, it can't be exported or imported.

If you say:

{-# OPTIONS_GHC -XNoRecordSelectorFunctions              #-}
module M( T( x ) )       where
    data T = MkT { x, y :: Int }

then the existence of field y is hidden; type T and field label x are exported, but not data constructor MkT, so x is unusable.

(Without the ‑XNoRecordSelectorFunctions flag, field selector function x would be exported.)

There's an effect on importing modules even if they don't set -XNoRecord..., so that they are generating selector functions for record types they declare:

  • The record types imported do not have field selector functions, so compilation must not generate code to (try to) use them.
  • But other uses of the field name must still work: (pattern matching, punning and wildcards, record creation using explicit data constructor (and -XDisambiguateRecordFields).
  • Record update e{ x = True } won't work.
Last modified 9 months ago Last modified on Aug 11, 2013 5:07:51 AM