# Rank-N types

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(Encoding of existentials in terms of higher rank types) |
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## Revision as of 01:04, 6 September 2012

## 1 About

Normal Haskell '98 types are considered Rank-1 types. A Haskell '98 type signature such as

a -> b -> a

implies that the type variables are universally quantified like so:

forall a b. a -> b -> a

forall a. a -> (forall b. b -> a)

is also a Rank-1 type because it is equivalent to the previous signature.

However, aRank-N type reconstruction is undecidable in general, and some explicit type annotations are required in their presence.

Rank-2 or Rank-N types may be specifically enabled by the language extensions

## 2 Relation to Existentials

In order to unpack an existential type, you need a polymorphic function that works on any type that could be stored in the existential. This leads to a natural relation between higher-rank types and existentials; and an encoding of existentials in terms of higher rank types in continuation-passing style.

In general, you can replace

data T a1 .. ai = forall t1 .. tj. constraints => Constructor e1 .. ek

Constructor exp1 .. expk -- application of the constructor

case e of (Constructor pat1 .. patk) -> res

with

data T' a1 .. ai = Constructor' (forall b. (forall t1..tj. constraints => e1 -> e2 -> ... -> ek -> b) -> b)

`Constructor' (\f -> f exp1 .. expk)`

case e of (Constructor' f) -> let k pat1 .. patk = res in f k

## 3 See also

- Rank-N types on the Haskell' website.
- The GHC User's Guide on higher-ranked polymorphism.