A brief introduction to Haskell
- A language developed by the programming languages research community.
- Is a lazy, purely functional language (that also has imperative features such as side effects and mutable state, along with strict evaluation)
- Born as an open source vehicle for programming language research
- One of the youngest children of ML and Lisp
- Particularly useful for programs that manipulate data structures (such as compilers and interpreters), and for concurrent/parallel programming
Inspired by the Introduction to OCaml.
- 1990. Haskell 1.0
- 1991. Haskell 1.1
- 1993. Haskell 1.2
- 1996. Haskell 1.3
- 1997. Haskell 1.4
- 1998. Haskell 98
- 2000-2006. Period of rapid language and community growth
- ~2007. Haskell Prime
Has some novel features relative to Java (and C++).
- Immutable variables by default (mutable state programmed via monads)
- Pure by default (side effects are programmed via monads)
- Lazy evaluation: results are only computed if they're required (strictness optional)
- Everything is an expression
- First-class functions: functions can be defined anywhere, passed as arguments, and returned as values.
- Both compiled and interpreted implementations available
- Full type inference -- type declarations optional
- Pattern matching on data structures -- data structures are first class!
- Parametric polymorphism
- Bounded parametric polymorphism
These are all conceptually more advanced ideas.
Compared to similar functional languages, Haskell differs in that it has support for:
- Lazy evaluation
- Pure functions by default
- Monadic side effects
- Type classes
- Syntax based on layout
The GHC Haskell compiler, in particular, provides some interesting extensions:
- Generalised algebraic data types
- Impredicative types system
- Software transactional memory
- Parallel, SMP runtime system
Interacting with the language
Haskell is both compiled and interpreted. For exploration purposes, we'll consider interacting with Haskell via the GHCi interpreter:
- expressions are entered at the prompt
- newline signals end of input
Here is a GHCi sessoin, starting from a UNIX prompt.
$ ghci ___ ___ _ / _ \ /\ /\/ __(_) / /_\// /_/ / / | | GHC Interactive, version 6.4.2, for Haskell 98. / /_\\/ __ / /___| | http://www.haskell.org/ghc/ \____/\/ /_/\____/|_| Type :? for help.
Loading package base-1.0 ... linking ... done.
Here the incredibly simple Haskell program
let x = 3+4 is
compiled and loaded, and available via the variable
Prelude> let x = 3 + 4
We can ask the system what type it automaticaly inferred for our
x :: Integer means that the variable
x "has type"
Integer, the type of unbounded
Prelude> :t x x :: Integer
A variable evaluates to its value.
Prelude> x 7
x is in scope, so we can reuse it in later
Prelude> x + 4 11
Local variables may be bound using
let, which declares a
new binding for a variable with local scope.
Prelude> let x = 4 in x + 3 7
Alternatively, declarations typed in at the top level are like an open-ended let:
Prelude> let x = 4 Prelude> let y = x + 3 Prelude> x * x 16 Prelude> :t x x :: Integer Prelude> :t y y :: Integer Prelude> :t x * x x * x :: Integer
Notice that type inference infers the correct type for all the expressions, without us having to ever specify the type explicitly.
There is a range of basic types, defined in the language Prelude.
Int -- bounded, word-sized integers Integer -- unbounded integers Double -- floating point values Char -- characters String -- strings () -- the unit type Bool -- booleans [a] -- lists (a,b) -- tuples / product types Either a b -- sum types Maybe a -- optional values
7 12312412412412321 3.1415 'x' "haskell" () True, False [1,2,3,4,5] ('x', 42) Left True, Right "string" Nothing, Just True
These types have all the usual operations on them, in the standard libraries.
- The Prelude contains the core operations on basic types. It is imported by default into every Haskell module. For example;
+ - div mod && || not < > == /=
To use functions from these modules you have to import them, or in GHCi, refer to the qualified name, for example to use the toUpper function on Chars:
Prelude> Char.toUpper 'x' 'X' Prelude> :m + Char Prelude Char> toUpper 'y' 'Y'
In a source file, you have to import the module explicitly:
Haskell uses typeclasses to methodically allow overloading. A typeclass describes a set of functions, and any type which provides those functions can be made an instance of that type. This avoids the syntactic redundancy of languages like OCaml.
For example, the function
* is a method of the typeclass
Num, as we can see from its type:
Prelude> :t (*) (*) :: (Num a) => a -> a -> a
Which can be read as "* is a polymorphic function, taking two types 'a', and returning a result of the same type, where those types are members of the class Num".
This means that it will operate on any type in the
class, of which the following types are members:
Double, Float, Int, Integer. Thus:
Prelude> 2.3 * 5.7 13.11
or on integers:
Prelude> 2 * 5 10
The type of the arguments determines which instance of
used. Haskell also never performs implicit coercions, all coercions must
be explicit. For example, if we try to multiply two different types,
then the type check against
* :: Num a => a -> a -> a will
Prelude> (2.3 :: Double) * (5 :: Int) <interactive>:1:19: Couldn't match `Double' against `Int' Expected type: Double Inferred type: Int In the expression: 5 :: Int In the second argument of `(*)', namely `(5 :: Int)'
To convert 5 to a
Double we'd write:
Prelude> (2.3 :: Double) * fromIntegral (5 :: Int) 11.5
Why bother -- why not allow the system to implicitly coerce types? Implicit type conversions by the system are the source of innumerable hard to find bugs in languages that support them, and makes reasoning about a program harder, since you must apply not just the language's semantics, but an extra set of coercion rules.
Note that If we leave off the type signatures however, Haskell will helpfully infer the most general type:
Prelude> 2.3 * 5 11.5