The Life of a Programmer

Adding the first type expression to Leaf: type_infer

I’ve added the ability to type a variable based on an expression. The type_infer type operator resolves to the type of the provided expression — a useful feature for parametrics. Though not a challenging feature to implement it did introduce a new twist to the parsing.

var a : type_infer(1+2)  //a is `integer`
var b : type_infer(a) //b is `integer`

In parametrics

type_infer has a variety of uses but it is primarily useful when working with parametric functions and classes. The basic scenario is to create a variable of the same type as a parameter:

defn pine = (x)-> {
    var y : type_infer(x)

The type of y is the same as is we had written var y = x, but it gets default initialized here rather than doing the actual assignment. This is why the operator is called type_infer: it determines the type the same way as the type inference during assignment does.

type_infer doesn’t have the exact same type as the expression it contains due to the inference. This is usually desired. For the cases where the exact type is desired a separate type_exact will be introduced.


I primarily had to modify the parser to get this feature working. Detecting the type_infer part is obviously easy. I also already had code to parse an expression. The interesting bit is that there is no such thing as a pure type anymore. Any type can include an arbitrary expression, thus creating a link both ways between the parsers and the data structures.

Determining the type also required that the typing code can evaluate expressions, creating another two-way link between the code. It’s more of conceptual oddity than actual technical problem: the implementation is simply calling a function that processes the expression.

The typing system already knew about the compilation context. It needed that resolve the member and context(...) type identifiers for classes. If this were not already in place it would have been a lot more work to get type_infer working.

There’s a small limitation here now: the expression is compiled as though it will actually be used. This was the simplest way to implement it, but it can have side-effects. In particular, symbols referenced in this expression can actually be pulled into the current context (captured in a closure), thus changing the resulting memory structure. While this shouldn’t have any impact on the high-level semantics, it is a performance issue that needs to be addressed at some point.

Please join me on Discord to discuss, or ping me on Mastadon.

Adding the first type expression to Leaf: type_infer

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