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10.1 Typeclass declarations

A type class is a name for a set of types (or a set of sequences of types) for which certain predicates and/or functions, called the methods of that type class, are defined. A ‘typeclass’ declaration defines a new type class, and specifies the set of predicates and/or functions that must be defined on a type (or sequence of types) for it (them) to be considered to be an instance of that type class.

The typeclass declaration gives the name of the type class that it is defining, the names of the type variables which are parameters to the type class, and the operations (i.e. methods) which form the interface of the type class. For each method, all parameters of the typeclass must be determined by the type variables appearing in the type signature of the method. A variable is determined by a type signature if it appears in the type signature, but if functional dependencies are present then it may also be determined from the other variables (see Functional dependencies).

For example,

:- typeclass point(T) where [
        % coords(Point, X, Y):
        %       X and Y are the cartesian coordinates of Point
        pred coords(T, float, float),
        mode coords(in, out, out) is det,

        % translate(Point, X_Offset, Y_Offset) = NewPoint:
        %       NewPoint is Point translated X_Offset units in the X direction
        %       and Y_Offset units in the Y direction
        func translate(T, float, float) = T
].

declares the type class point, which represents points in two dimensional space.

pred, func and mode declarations are the only legal declarations inside a typeclass declaration. The mode and determinism of type class methods must be explicitly declared or (for functions) defaulted, not inferred. In other words, for each predicate declared in a type class, there must be at least one mode declaration, and each mode declaration in a type class must include an explicit determinism annotation. Functions with no explicit mode declaration get the usual default mode (see Modes): all arguments have mode ‘in’, the result has mode ‘out’, and the determinism is ‘det’.

The number of parameters to the type class (e.g. T) is not limited. For example, the following is allowed:

:- typeclass a(T1, T2) where […].

The parameters must be distinct variables. Each typeclass declaration must have at least one parameter.

It is OK for a typeclass declaration to declare no methods, e.g.

:- typeclass foo(T) where [].

There must not be more than one type class declaration with the same name and arity in the same module.


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