Baby Steps

A blog about programming, and tiny ways to improve it.

A Postscript on Traits and Impls

I was thinking more about type classes as I walked down the street. In my prior post I wrote that the rules I proposed resulted in a system where traits loosely fit the following Haskell template:

 class C self a ... z | self -> a ... z where ...

However, I gave two caveats. The first was that due to subtyping we cannot say that one type precisely determines another, but only that it puts a bound. The second was that, in any given impl, the value of a ... z may be a type parameter which does not appear in the self type. I think I understated the importance of this second caveat. For example, consider the example I gave for simulating overloading:

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trait Add<R,S>  { pure fn add(&self, rhs: &R) -> S;  }
trait IntRhs<S> { pure fn add_to_int(&self, lhs: int) -> S; }
impl<S, R: IntRhs<S>> int: Add<R, S> { ... }

This impl declaration essentially says “when self is int, the type parameter R may be any type which implements IntRhs”. Moreover, in this case, the self type does not constrain the parameter S at all—that constraint is derived purely from R.

In other words, while overloading-freedom does mean that the impl which will be used is purely determined by self, it does not mean that self alone determines the value of all the other trait parameters, as my Haskell analogy implied. It’s more accurate to say that the self type determines a (possibly empty) set of bounds that will be imposed on the other type parameters. These bounds can take the form of subtyping bounds (lower- or upper-bounds, or both) or trait bounds.

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