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Polymorphic Types in Erlang Function Specifications

Resumen:

Erlang is a concurrent functional programming language developed by Ericsson, well suited for implementing distributed systems. Although Erlang is dynamically typed, the Dialyzer static analysis tool can be used to extract implicit type information from the programs, both for documentation
purposes and for finding errors that will definitively arise at program execution. Dialyzer is based on the notion of success types, that correspond to safe over-approximations for the semantics of expressions. Erlang also supports user given function specifications (or just specs), that are contracts
providing more information about the semantics of functions. Function specs are useful not only as documentation, but also can be employed by Dialyzer to improve the precision of the analysis. Even though specs can have a polymorphic shape, in practice Dialyzer is not able to exploit all their potential. One reason for that is that extending the notion of success type to a polymorphic setting is not trivial, and several interpretations are possible. In this work [1] we propose a precise formulation for a novel interpretation of function specs as polymorphic success types, and a program transformation that allows us to apply this new interpretation on the call sites of functions with a declared spec. This results on a significant improvement in the number of definite errors that Dialyzer is able to detect.

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11705/PROLE/2016/004

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