Restrictable Variants: A Simple and Practical Alternative to Extensible Variants
We propose restrictable variants as a simple and practical alternative to extensible variants. Restrictable variants combine nominal and structural typing: a restrictable variant is an algebraic data type indexed by a type-level set formula that captures its set of active labels. We introduce a new pattern-matching construct that allows programmers to write functions that only match on a subset of variants, i.e., pattern matches may be non-exhaustive. We then present a type system for restrictable variants which ensures that such non-exhaustive matches cannot get stuck at runtime.
An essential feature of restrictable variants is that the type system can capture structure-preserving transformations: specifically the introduction and elimination of variants. This property is important for writing reusable functions, yet many row-based extensible variant systems lack it.
In this paper, we present a calculus with restrictable variants, two partial pattern-matching constructs, and a type system that ensures progress and preservation. The type system extends Hindley-Milner with restrictable variants and supports type inference with an extension of Algorithm W with Boolean unification. We implement restrictable variants as an extension of the Flix programming language and conduct a few case studies to illustrate their practical usefulness.