Type erasure

Type erasure is the process of setting a type argument to _ and deliberately discarding its information. Type erasure is a feature of many polymorphic languages, but in the context of Erg's syntax, it is more accurate to call it type argument erasure.

The most common example of a type that has been type-erased is [T, _]. Arrays are not always known their length at compile-time. For example, sys.argv, which refers to command line arguments, is of type [Str, _]. Since Erg's compiler has no way of knowing the length of command line arguments, information about their length must be given up. However, a type that has been type-erased becomes a supertype of a type that has not been (e.g. [T; N] <: [T; _]), so it can accept more objects. Objects of type [T; N] can of course use methods of type [T; _], but the N information is erased after use. If the length does not change, then it is possible to use [T; N] in the signature. If the length remains the same, it must be indicated by a signature.

# Functions that are guaranteed to not change the length of the array (e.g., sort)
f: [T; N] -> [T; N] # functions that do not (f: [T; N])
# functions that do not (e.g. filter)
g: [T; n] -> [T; _]

If you use _ in the type specification itself, the type is upcast to Object. For non-type type arguments (Int, Bool, etc.), the parameter with _ will be undefined.

i: _ # i: Object
[_; _] == [Object; _] == Array

Type erasure is not the same as omitting a type specification. Once the type argument information has been erased, it will not be returned unless you assert it again.

implicit = (1..5).iter().map(i -> i * 2).to_arr()
explicit = (1..5).iter().map(i -> i * 2).into(Array(Nat))

In Rust, this corresponds to the following code.

fn main() {
let partial = (1..6).iter().map(|i| i * 2).collect::<Vec<_>>();

Erg does not allow partial omission of types, but uses higher-order kind polymorphism instead.

# collect is a higher-order Kind method that takes Kind
hk = (1..5).iter().map(i -> i * 2).collect(Array)
hk: Array(Int)