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Mixin' Up the ML Module System

Derek Dreyer and Andreas Rossberg

The 13th ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP 2008)
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, September 22-24, 2008


Abstract

ML modules provide hierarchical namespace management, as well as fine-grained control over the propagation of type information, but they do not allow modules to be broken up into separately compilable, mutually recursive components. Mixin modules facilitate recursive linking of separately compiled components, but they are not hierarchically composable and typically do not support type abstraction. We synthesize the complementary advantages of these two mechanisms in a novel module system design we call MixML. A MixML module is like an ML structure in which some of the components are specified but not defined. In other words, it unifies the ML structure and signature languages into one. MixML seamlessly integrates hierarchical composition, translucent ML-style data abstraction, and mixin-style recursive linking. Moreover, the design of MixML is clean and minimalist; it emphasizes how all the salient, semantically interesting features of the ML module system (as well as several proposed extensions to it) can be understood simply as stylized uses of a small set of orthogonal underlying constructs, with mixin composition playing a central role.


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