|dc.description.abstract||This thesis presents a novel approach to type theory called “pure subtype systems”,
and a core calculus called DEEP which is based on that approach. DEEP is capable
of modeling a number of interesting language techniques that have been proposed in
the literature, including mixin modules, virtual classes, feature-oriented programming,
and partial evaluation.
The design of DEEP was motivated by two well-known problems: “the expression
problem”, and “the tag elimination problem.” The expression problem is concerned
with the design of an interpreter that is extensible, and requires an advanced module
system. The tag elimination problem is concerned with the design of an interpreter that
is efficient, and requires an advanced partial evaluator. We present a solution in DEEP
that solves both problems simultaneously, which has never been done before.
These two problems serve as an “acid test” for advanced type theories, because they
make heavy demands on the static type system. Our solution in DEEP makes use of the
following capabilities. (1) Virtual types are type definitions within a module that can
be extended by clients of the module. (2) Type definitions may be mutually recursive.
(3) Higher-order subtyping and bounded quantification are used to represent partial
information about types. (4) Dependent types and singleton types provide increased
The combination of recursive types, virtual types, dependent types, higher-order
subtyping, and bounded quantification is highly non-trivial. We introduce “pure subtype
systems” as a way of managing this complexity. Pure subtype systems eliminate
the distinction between types and objects; every term can behave as either a type or
an object depending on context. A subtype relation is defined over all terms, and subtyping,
rather than typing, forms the basis of the theory. We show that higher-order
subtyping is strong enough to completely subsume the traditional type relation, and
we provide practical algorithms for type checking and for finding minimal types.
The cost of using pure subtype systems lies in the complexity of the meta-theory.
Unfortunately, we are unable to establish some basic meta-theoretic properties, such as
type safety and transitivity elimination, although we have made some progress towards
these goals. We formulate the subtype relation as an abstract reduction system, and we
show that the type theory is sound if the reduction system is confluent. We can prove
that reductions are locally confluent, but a proof of global confluence remains elusive.
In summary, pure subtype systems represent a new and interesting approach to
type theory. This thesis describes the basic properties of pure subtype systems, and
provides concrete examples of how they can be applied. The Deep calculus demonstrates
that our approach has a number of real-world practical applications in areas that
have proved to be quite difficult for traditional type theories to handle. However, the
ultimate soundness of the technique remains an open question.||en