Modular Type Classes

Derek Dreyer; Robert Harper; Manuel M.T. Chakravarty; Gabriele Keller. 26 October, 2006.
Communicated by Pedro Felzenszwalb.
Supersedes: TR-2006-03 (updated 10/26/06)


ML modules and Haskell type classes have proven to be highly effective tools for program structuring. Modules emphasize explicit configuration of program components and the use of data abstraction. Type classes emphasize implicit program construction and ad hoc polymorphism. In this paper, we show how the implicitly-typed style of type class programming may be supported within the framework of an explicitly-typed module language by viewing type classes as a particular mode of use of modules. This view offers a harmonious integration of modules and type classes, where type class features, such as class hierarchies and associated types, arise naturally as uses of existing module-language constructs, such as module hierarchies and type components. In addition, programmers have explicit control over which type class instances are available for use by type inference in a given scope. We formalize our approach as a Harper-Stone-style elaboration relation, and provide a sound type inference algorithm as a guide to implementation.

Original Document

The original document is available in PDF (uploaded 26 October, 2006 by Pedro Felzenszwalb).