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This repository is the mechanization of the work described in our POPL19 paper. It includes all of the definitions and proofs from Section 3, as claimed in Sec. 3.4 (Agda Mechanization).

How To Check These Proofs

These proofs are known to check under Agda 2.6.2. The most direct, if not the easiest, option to check the proofs is to install that version of Agda or one compatible with it, download the code in this repo, and run agda all.agda at the command line.

Alternatively, we have provided a Docker file to make it easier to build that environment and check the proofs. To use it, first install Docker, make sure the Docker daemon is running, and clone this repository to your local machine. Then, at a command line inside that clone, run

docker build -t hazel-popl19 .

This may take a fair amount of time. When it finishes, run

docker run hazel-popl19

This should take less than a minute, produce a lot of output as Agda checks each module and function, and end with either the line Finished all. or Loading all (/all.agdai). to indicate success, depending on Docker-level caching.

Most text editors that support Agda can be configured to use the version instead a Docker container instead of your host machine, so you can experiment with or evolve this code without making too much of a mess. For some example instructions, see the docker-agda repo.

Where To Find Each Theorem

All of the judgements defined in the paper are given in core.agda. The syntax is meant to mirror the on-paper notation as closely as possible, with some small variations because of the limitations of Agda syntax.

For easy reference, the proofs for the theorems in order of appearance in the paper text can be found as follows:

The extended paper with an appendix goes into more detail for some lemmas and definitions omitted from the main paper, some of which have been mechanized as well. Those can be found as follows:

Description of Agda Files

The theorem statements rely on a variety of lemmas and smaller claims or observations that aren't explicitly mentioned in the paper text. What follows is a rough description of what to expect from each source file; more detail is provided in the comments inside each.

On paper, we typically take it for granted that we can silently α-rename terms to equivalent terms whenever a collision of bound names is inconvenient. In a mechanization, we do not have that luxury and instead must be explicit in our treatment of binders in one way or another. In our development here, we assume that all terms are in an α-normal form where binders are globally not reused.

That manifests in this development where we have chosen to add premises that binders are unique within a term or disjoint between terms when needed. These premises are fairly benign, since α-equivalence tells us they can always be satisfied without changing the meaning of the term in question. Other standard approaches include using de Bruijn indices, Abstract Binding Trees, HOAS, or PHOAS to actually rewrite the terms when needed. We have chosen not to use these techniques because almost all of the theory we're interested in does not need them and their overhead quickly becomes pervasive, obfuscating the actual points of interest.

Similarly, we make explicit some premises about disjointness of contexts or variables being apart from contexts in some of the premises of some rules that would typically be taken as read in an on-paper presentation. This is a slightly generalized version of Barendrecht's convention (Barendregt, 1984), which we also used in our POPL17 mechanization for the same reason.

Since the type system for external terms is bidirectional, the judgments defining it are mutually recursive. That means that anything type-directed is very likely to also be mutually recursive. The grammar of internal expressions is also mutually recursive with the definition of substitution environments. All told, a fair number of theorems are mutually recursive as this percolates through. We try to name things in a suggestive way, using x-synth and x-ana for the two halves of a theorem named x.

Both hole and type contexts are encoded as Agda functions from natural numbers to optional contents. In practice these mappings are always finite. We represent finite substitutions and substitution environments explicitly as inductive datatypes, _,_⊢_:s:_and env from core.agda respectively, taking advantage of the fact that the base case in our semantics is always the identity substitution. This allows us to reason about substitutions in a well-founded way that passes the Agda termination checker.


We have benign postulates in two places:

  • First, we postulate function extensionality in Prelude.agda, because it is known to be independent from Agda and we use it to reason about contexts.

  • Second, in continuity.agda, we postulate some judgemental forms and theorems from our POPL17 mechanization in order to demonstrate the connections to it described in the paper. We also postulate some glue code that allows us to use those theorems in this work.

There are no other postulates in this development.


  • all.agda is morally a make file: it includes every module in every other file, so running $ agda all.agda on a clean clone of this repository will recheck every proof from scratch. It is known to load cleanly with Agda version 2.6.2; we have not tested it on any other version.

Prelude and Datatypes

These files give definitions and syntactic sugar for common elements of type theory (sum types, products, sigmas, etc.) and natural numbers that are used pervasively throughout the rest of the development.

Core Definitions

  • contexts.agda defines contexts as functions from natural numbers to possible contents and proves a collection of lemmas that makes this definition practical.
  • core.agda gives the definitions of all the grammars and judgements in the order presented in the paper as types and metafunctions in Agda. It also includes the definition of the judgements that are used implicitly on paper but need to be made explicit in a mechanization.

Structural Properties

  • contraction.agda argues that contexts are the same up to contraction, and therefore that every judgement that uses them enjoys the contraction property. Note that this proof is given for any sort of context, so it establishes contraction in both the type and hole contexts for those judgements that have both.

  • exchange.agda argues that contexts are the same up to exchange, and therefore that every judgement that uses the enjoys the exchange property. As above, this proof establishes exchange in both the type and hole contexts for those jugements that have both.

  • weakening.agda argues the weakening properties for those judgements where we needed it in the other proofs. This is not every weakening property for every judgement, and indeed some of them do not enjoy weakening in every argument.

    For example, the elaborations do not support weakening in the typing context because the rule for substitution typing requires that the lowest substitution be exactly the identity, not something that can be weakened to the identity. (See the definition of STAId on line 254 of core.agda.) In practice, this is not a problem because you wouldn't want to add anything there just to weaken it away, and allowing imprecision here would break the unicity of elaboration.


Canonical Forms

Together, these files give the canonical forms lemma for the language.

Metatheory of Type Assignment

Metatheory of Elaboration

Type Safety

These files contain proofs of type safety for the internal language. Note that we only give a dynamic semantics for the internal language, which is related to the external language through elaboration.

  • progress.agda argues that any well typed internal expression either steps, is a boxed value, or is indeterminate.

  • progress-checks.agda argues that the clauses in the conclusion of progress are pairwise disjoint---i.e. that no expression both steps and is a boxed value, and so on.

  • preservation.agda argues that stepping preserves type assignment.

    This is the main place that our assumption about α-normal terms appears: the statement of preservation makes explicit the standard on-paper convention that binders not be reused in its argument.

We also argue that our dynamics is a conservative extension in the sense that if you use it to evaluate terms that happen to have no holes in them, you get the standard type safety theorems you might expect for the restricted fragment without holes.

  • complete-elaboration.agda argues that the elaboration of a complete external term produces a complete internal term.
  • complete-preservation.agda argues that stepping a complete term produces a complete term that is assigned the same type, again with an explicit assumption about binder uniqueness.
  • complete-progress.agda argues that complete terms are either a value or step.

Metatheory of Continuity

  • continuity.agda includes a sketch of a proof of continuity. This is built on postulates of a result from our POPL17 work and a few properties that would need to be proven about the expression forms from that work and the α-normal requirement we have in this work.

Lemmas and Smaller Claims

These files each establish smaller claims that are either not mentioned in the paper or mentioned only in passing. In terms of complexity and importance, they're somewhere between a lemma and a theorem.

  • binders-disjoint-checks.agda contains some proofs that demonstrate that binders-disjoint acts as expected. That judgement is defined inductively only on its left argument; since Agda datatypes do not define functions, explicit lemmas are needed to get the expected reduction behaivour in the right argument.
  • cast-inert.agda gives a judgemental removal of identity casts and argues that doing so does not change the type of the expression. It would also be possible to argue that removing the identity casts produces a term that evaluates in the same way---but identity cast removal is a syntactic operation that goes under binders while our evaluation semantics does not. To establish that result, we'd need to also give an equational theory of evaluation compatible with the given one.
  • disjointness.agda characterizes the output hole contexts produced in elaboration, including disjointness guarantees needed in the proofs of Elaborability and Elaboration Generality.
  • dom-eq.agda defines when two contexts have the same domain, regardless of the range type or contents, and some operations that preserve that property. This is used in the proofs in disjointness.agda.
  • finality.agda argues that a final expression doesn't step, and only multi-steps to itself. More properties of this nature are proven in progress-checks.agda but not called out explicitly in the paper.
  • focus-formation.agda argues that every ε is an evaluation context. As noted in core.agda, because we elide the boxed-in-red finality premises from the stepping rules, every ε is trivially an evaluation context, so this proof is extremely immediate; it would be slightly more involved if those premises were in place.
  • ground-decidable.agda argues that every type is either ground or not.
  • grounding.agda argues the grounding property.
  • holes-disjoint-checks.agda contains some checks on and lemmas for using the holes-disjoint judgement. Like binders-disjoint, holes-disjoint is defined inductively on only its left argument, so there's similar overhead.
  • htype-decidable.agda argues that every pair of types are either equal or not.
  • synth-unicity.agda argues that the synthesis judgement produces at most one type for a term.

These files contain technical lemmas for the corresponding judgement or theorem. They are generally not surprising once stated, although it's perhaps not immediate why they're needed, and they tend to obfuscate the actual proof text. They are corralled into their own modules in an effort to aid readability.