A functional specification of effects

Swierstra, Wouter (2009) A functional specification of effects. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This dissertation is about effects and type theory.

Functional programming languages such as Haskell illustrate how to encapsulate side effects using monads. Haskell compilers provide a handful of primitive effectful functions. Programmers can construct larger computations using the monadic return and bind operations.

These primitive effectful functions, however, have no associated definition. At best, their semantics are specified separately on paper. This can make it difficult to test, debug, verify, or even predict the behaviour of effectful computations.

This dissertation provides pure, functional specifications in Haskell of several different effects. Using these specifications, programmers can test and debug effectful programs. This is particularly useful in tandem with automatic testing tools such as QuickCheck.

The specifications in Haskell are not total. This makes them unsuitable for the formal verification of effectful functions. This dissertation overcomes this limitation, by presenting total functional specifications in Agda, a programming language with dependent types.

There have been alternative approaches to incorporating effects in a dependently typed programming language. Most notably, recent work on Hoare Type Theory proposes to extend type theory with axioms that postulate the existence of primitive effectful functions. This dissertation shows how the functional specifications implement these axioms, unifying the two approaches.

The results presented in this dissertation may be used to write and verify effectful programs in the framework of type theory.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Altenkirch, T.
Ghani, N.
Uncontrolled Keywords:functional programming, effects, haskell, type theory
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
ID Code:779
Deposited By:Dr. Wouter Swierstra
Deposited On:06 Jan 2010 14:58
Last Modified:06 Jan 2010 15:03

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