Functional Programming and Input/Output

Andy Gordon

PhD Thesis: Cambridge University Press |

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A common attraction to functional programming is the ease with which proofs can be given of program properties. A common disappointment with functional programming is the difficulty of expressing input/output (I/O) while at the same time being able to verify programs. In this dissertation we show how a theory of functional programming can be smoothly extended to admit both an operational semantics for functional I/O and verification of programs engaged in I/O.

The first half develops the operational theory of a semantic metalanguage used in the second half. The metalanguage M is a simply-typed lambda-calculus with product, sum, function, lifted and recursive types. We study two definitions of operational equivalence: Morris-style contextual equivalence, and a typed form of Abramsky’s applicative bisimulation. We prove operational extensionality for M—that these two definitions give rise to the same operational equivalence. We prove equational laws that are analogous to the axiomatic domain theory of LCF and derive a co-induction principle.

The second half defines a small functional language, H, and shows how the semantics of H can be extended to accommodate I/O. H is essentially a fragment of Haskell. We give both operational and denotational semantics for H. The denotational semantics uses M in a case study of Moggi’s proposal to use monads to parameterise semantic descriptions. We define operational and denotational equivalences on H and show that denotational implies operational equivalence. We develop a theory of H based on equational laws and a co-induction principle.

We study simplified forms of four widely-implemented I/O mechanisms: side-effecting, Landin-stream, synchronised-stream and continuation-passing I/O. We give reasons why side-effecting I/O is unsuitable for lazy languages. We extend the semantics of H to include the other three mechanisms and prove that the three are equivalent to each other in expressive power.

We investigate monadic I/O, a high-level model for functional I/O based on Wadler’s suggestion that monads can express interaction with state in a functional language. We describe a simple monadic programming model, and give its semantics as a particular form of state transformer. Using the semantics we verify a simple programming example.

Distinguished Dissertations in Computer Science. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0 521 47103 6 hardback. Publication dates 29 September 1994 (UK) and 27 January 1995 (USA).

A PDF version is available online since August 14, 2007, as permitted by Cambridge University Press, who own the copyright.