Intensional Polymorphism in Type-erasure Semantics

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Intensional Polymorphism in Type-erasure Semantics

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Title: Intensional Polymorphism in Type-erasure Semantics
Author: Weirich, Stephanie; Crary, Karl; Morrisett, John Gregory

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Citation: Crary, Karl, Stephanie Weirich, and Greg Morrisett. 1998. Intensional polymorphism in type-erasure semantics. In Proceedings of the Third ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP '98), Baltimore, Maryland, USA, September 27-29, 1998, ed. ACM SIGPLAN ICFP, 301-312. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. ACM SIGPLAN Notices 34(1).
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Abstract: Intensional polymorphism, the ability to dispatch to different routines based on types at run time, enables a variety of advanced implementation techniques for polymorphic languages, including tag-free garbage collection, unboxed function arguments, polymorphic marshalling, and flattened data structures. To date, languages that support intensional polymorphism have required a type-passing (as opposed to type-erasure) interpretation where types are constructed and passed to polymorphic functions at run time. Unfortunately, type-passing suffers from a number of drawbacks: it requires duplication of constructs at the term and type levels, it prevents abstraction, and it severely complicates polymorphic closure conversion.We present a type-theoretic framework that supports intensional polymorphism, but avoids many of the disadvantages of type passing. In our approach, run-time type information is represented by ordinary terms. This avoids the duplication problem, allows us to recover abstraction, and avoids complications with closure conversion. In addition, our type system provides another improvement in expressiveness; it allows unknown types to be refined in place thereby avoiding certain beta-expansions required by other frameworks
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