Prototype type inference engine
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README.md

This is a prototype type inferencer for an ML-like language with subtyping and polymorphism. It's written in OCaml, and building it requires Menhir.

It accepts lines containing programs written in a very limited subset of OCaml (just lambdas, unit and let), and spews some debugging output and their principal type if it likes them, and an unceremonious exception if it does not.

Some examples, and their inferred types:

The identity function is given type v0 -> v0. All free variables in inferred types are considered universally quantified, as is the custom in these parts.

fun x -> x
(v0 -> v0)

The inferencer actually spits out two types: the original and a simplified one. The second one is a simplified but equivalent rendering of the first. The simplifier is not currently very good.

Type ascriptions can be used, and check polymorphic subsumption:

(fun x -> x : a -> a)
(v0 -> v0)

The ascription may be less general than the inferred type:

(fun x -> x : unit -> unit)
(unit -> unit)

But the inferencer won't like a more general or unrelated type:

(fun x -> x : a -> b)
<error>

On to something more interesting. Self-application can be typed in this system:

fun x -> x x
(((v1 -> v0) & v1) -> v0)

The argument x must be both a v1 -> v0 and a v1. One thing you can do with the self-application function is apply it to itself (why you would do this is outside the scope of this work):

(fun x -> x x) (fun x -> x x)
Bot

This is the bottom type, equivalent to just a (universally quantified). We can check this with a type ascription:

((fun x -> x x) (fun x -> x x) : a)
Bot

The Y combinator can be typed by this system (here showing the simplified type, the first attempt is a bit uglier):

(fun f -> (fun x -> f (x x)) (fun x -> f (x x)))
((v0 -> v0) -> v0)

This version of the Y combinator doesn't work in strict languages. The CBV-safe version eta-expands, giving:

(fun f -> (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v)) (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v)))
(((v1 -> v0) -> ((v1 -> v0) & v2)) -> v2)

This is slightly different from the expected ((a -> b) -> (a -> b)) -> (a -> b). An ascription check shows that it is more general:

(fun f -> (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v)) (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v)) :
  ((a -> b) -> (a -> b)) -> (a -> b))
(((v1 -> v0) -> (v1 -> v0)) -> (v1 -> v0))

The extra generality comes from allowing v2 to be more general than v1 -> v0, which comes into play if -> has subtypes.

We can use fixpoint combinators to make values with recursive types, such as a function that takes arbitrarily many arguments:

(fun f -> (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v)) (fun x -> f (fun v -> (x x) v))) 
   (fun f -> fun x -> f)
(Top -> rec v0 = (Top -> v0))

This type could be folded into the simpler rec a = Top -> a; but the (rather stupid) simplifier can't figure that out yet.