Syntax!

A research blog about programming languages, formal logics, software development and their interactions, by Matthias Puech.

Tag: functional programming

Typeful disjunctive normal form

This is the answer to last post’s puzzle. I gave an algorithm to put a formula in disjunctive normal form, and suggested to prove it correct in OCaml, thanks to GADTs. My solution happens to include a wealth of little exercises that could be reused I think, so here it is.

I put the code snippets in the order that I think is more pedagogical, and leave to the reader to reorganize them in the right one.

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Disjunctive normal forms in big steps

This is probably a second-semester functional programming exercise, but I found it surprisingly hard, and could not find a solution online. So at the risk of depriving a TA from a problem for its mid-term exam, here is my take on it, that I painfully put together yesterday.

Given a formula built out of conjunction, disjunction and atoms, return its disjunctive normal form, in big step or natural semantics, that is, not applying repetitively the distributivity and associativity rules, but in a single function run. Before you go any further, please give it a try and send me your solution!

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malloc() is the new gensym()

Teaching an introductory course to “compilation” this semester (actually it was called Virtual Machines, but it was really about compiling expressions to stack machines), I realized something I hadn’t heard before, and wish I had been told when I first learned OCaml many years ago. Here it is: as soon as you are programming in a functional language with physical equality (i.e. pointer equality, the (==) operator in OCaml), then you are actually working in a “weakly impure” language, and you can for example implement a limited form of gensym. What? gensym is this classic “innocuously effectful” function returning a different symbol—usually a string—each time it is called. It is used pervasively to generate fresh variable names, in compilers notably. How? well, you actually don’t have much to do, except let the runtime call malloc: it will return a “fresh” pointer where to store your data. malloc and the garbage collector together ensures this freshness condition, and you can then compare two pointers with (==). As a bonus, you can even store data along your fresh symbol.

In this post, I’ll exploit that simple idea to develop an assembler for a little stack machine close to that of OCaml.

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My thesis is out!

At last! The definitive, final and comprehensive version of my thesis manuscript is out. I defended it on April 8 in Bologna, Italy, and received both titles of “Dottore di ricerca” and “Docteur” in Computer Science, with great pride and relief. What an adventure! You can find my manuscript on my web page, precisely here; it’s called Certificates for incremental type-checking, and after much hesitation, I chose a blue cover for its printed version (it was a tough choice). It is already a little bit obsolete since I compulsively worked on that material even after its submission to avoid the baby blues, but I will nonetheless advertise it here, and eventually write about my advances in future posts. In short, if you are interested in proof certificates, manipulation of proof objects in a functional language, spine-form LF, incremental type-checking, contextual type theory, or the relationship between natural deduction and the sequent calculus, you might be interested in some parts of my manuscript.

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Reversing data structures

A reversed list is not really a list anymore. It is isomorphic to a list, but it is not a list. Let me explain why. Read the rest of this entry »