Section: Research Program
Dependently typed programming languages
Dependently typed programming (shortly DTP) is an emerging concept referring to the diffuse and broadening tendency to develop programming languages with type systems able to express program properties finer than the usual information of simply belonging to specific data-types. The type systems of dependently-typed programming languages allow to express properties dependent of the input and the output of the program (for instance that a sorting program returns a list of same size as its argument). Typical examples of such languages were the Cayenne language, developed in the late 90's at Chalmers University in Sweden and the DML language developed at Boston. Since then, various new tools have been proposed, either as typed programming languages whose types embed equalities (mega at Portland, ATS at Boston, ...) or as hybrid logic/programming frameworks (Agda at Chalmers University, Twelf at Carnegie, Delphin at Yale, OpTT at U. Iowa, Epigram at Nottingham, ...).
DTP contributes to a general movement leading to the fusion between logic and programming. Coq, whose language is both a logic and a programming language which moreover can be extracted to pure ML code plays a role in this movement and some frameworks for DTP have been proposed on top of Coq (Concoqtion at Rice and Colorado, Ynot at Harvard, Why in the ProVal team at Inria). It also connects to Hoare logic, providing frameworks where pre- and post-conditions of programs are tied with the programs.
DTP approached from the programming language side generally benefits of a full-fledged language (e.g. supporting effects) with efficient compilation. DTP approached from the logic side generally benefits of an expressive specification logic and of proof methods so as to certify the specifications. The weakness of the approach from logic however is generally the weak support for effects or partial functions.
Type-checking and proof automation
In between the decidable type systems of conventional data-types based programming languages and the full expressiveness of logically undecidable formulae an active field of research explores a spectrum of decidable or semi-decidable type systems for possible use in dependently programming languages. At the beginning of the spectrum, this includes for instance the system F's extension ML of the ML type system or the generalisation of abstract data types with type constraints (G.A.D.T.) such as found in the Haskell programming language. At the other side of the spectrum, one finds arbitrary complex type specification languages (e.g. that a sorting function returns a list of type “sorted list”) for which more or less powerful proof automation tools (generally first-order ones) exist.
Developing libraries for programming languages takes time and generally benefits of a critical mass effect. An advantage is given to languages that start from well-established existing frameworks for which a large panel of libraries exist. Coq is such a framework.