Named Instances for Haskell Type Classes

Wolfram Kahl, Jan Scheffczyk

in Ralf Hinze (ed.): Proc. Haskell Workshop 2001, ENTCS vol. 59 no. 2 (to appear)

(.bib, .pdf, .ps.gz)


Although the functional programming language Haskell has a powerful type class system, users frequently run into situations where they would like to be able to define or adapt instances of type classes only after the remainder of a component has been produced. However, Haskell's type class system essentially only allows late binding of type class constraints on free type variables, and not on uses of type class members at variable-free types.

In the current paper we propose a language extension that enhances the late binding capabilities of Haskell type classes, and provides more flexible means for type class instantiation. The latter is achieved via named instances that do not participate in automatic context reduction, but can only be used for late binding. By combining this capability with the automatic aspects of the Haskell type class system, we arrive at an essentially conservative extension that greatly improves flexibility of programming using type classes and opens up new structuring principles for Haskell library design.

We exemplify our extension through the sketch of some applications and show how our approach could be used to explain or subsume other language features as for example implicit parameters. We present a typed lambda-calculus for our extension and provide a working prototype type checker on the basis of Mark Jones' ``Typing Haskell in Haskell''.

Also refer to the Named Instances home page.

Wolfram Kahl