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Revision as of 09:14, 6 July 2007
One frequent question is what is the difference between data and newtype? The answer has to do with the level of undefinedness that occurs in the values. The following sample code shows how three different data declarations behave with undefined present. This shows the difference in behavior.
Another difference is that newtypes can be compiled to have only the overhead of the wrapped type, probably making them more efficient than data types. And at least GHC has extended the deriving syntax to make usage of newtypes easier.
The Haskell 98 Report defines newtypes in section 4.2.3.
module Foo where data Foo1 = Foo1 Int -- Defines Foo1 constructor that lazily refers to an Int data Foo2 = Foo2 !Int -- Defines Foo2 constructor that strictly refers to an Int newtype Foo3 = Foo3 Int -- Defines Foo3 constructor that is synonymous with Int -- Argument is lazy and ignored, so -- undefined does not cause failure since -- the contructor pattern match succeeds. x1 = case Foo1 undefined of Foo1 _ -> 1 -- 1 -- Argument is strict (because of !), so -- undefined does cause failure. x2 = case Foo2 undefined of Foo2 _ -> 1 -- undefined -- The newtype behaves like Int, see yInt below x3 = case Foo3 undefined of Foo3 _ -> 1 -- 1 -- Constructor pattern match fails y1 = case undefined of Foo1 _ -> 1 -- undefined -- Constructor pattern match fails y2 = case undefined of Foo2 _ -> 1 -- undefined -- The newtype behaves like Int, there is no -- constructor at runtime. y3 = case undefined of Foo3 _ -> 1 -- 1 -- Demonstration of Int behavior int :: Int int = undefined yInt = case int of _ -> 1 -- 1