Linear Haskell: practical linearity in a higher-order polymorphic language

  • Jean-Philippe Bernardy
  • Mathieu Boespflug
  • Ryan R. Newton
  • Arnaud Spiwack

Principles of Programming Languages 2018 (POPL 2018) |

Published by ACM

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Linear type systems have a long and storied history, but not a clear path forward to integrate with existing languages such as OCaml or Haskell. In this paper, we study a linear type system designed with two crucial properties in mind: backward-compatibility and code reuse across linear and non-linear users of a library. Only then can the benefits of linear types permeate conventional functional programming. Rather than bifurcate types into linear and non-linear counterparts, we instead attach linearity to function arrows. Linear functions can receive inputs from linearly-bound values, but can also operate over unrestricted, regular values.

To demonstrate the efficacy of our linear type system – both how easy it can be integrated into an existing language implementation and how streamlined it makes it to write programs with linear types – we implemented our type system in GHC, the leading Haskell compiler, and demonstrate two kinds of applications of linear types: mutable data with pure interfaces; and enforcing protocols in I/O-performing functions.

Here is my talk at Curry On, July 2018