A Transient Semantics for Typed Racket

Ben Greenman1, Lukas Lazarek2, Christos Dimoulas3, and Matthias Felleisen4

The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming, 2022, Vol. 6, Issue 2, Article 9

Submission date: 2021-08-31
Publication date: 2021-11-15
DOI: https://doi.org/10.22152/programming-journal.org/2022/6/9
Full text: PDF


Mixed-typed languages enable programmers to link typed and untyped components
in various ways. Some offer rich type systems to facilitate the smooth
migration of untyped code to the typed world; others merely provide a
convenient form of type Dynamic together with a conventional structural type
system. Orthogonal to this dimension, Natural systems ensure the integrity of
types with a sophisticated contract system, while Transient systems insert
simple first-order checks at strategic places within typed code. Furthermore,
each method of ensuring type integrity comes with its own blame-assignment

Typed Racket has a rich migratory type system and enforces the types with a
Natural semantics. Reticulated Python has a simple structural type system
extended with Dynamic and enforces types with a Transient semantics. While
Typed Racket satisfies the most stringent gradual-type soundness properties at
a significant performance cost, Reticulated Python seems to limit the
performance penalty to a tolerable degree and is nevertheless type sound. This
comparison raises the question of whether Transient checking is applicable to
and beneficial for a rich migratory type system.

This paper reports on the surprising difficulties of adapting the Transient
semantics of Reticulated Python to the rich migratory type system of Typed
Racket. The resulting implementation, Shallow Typed Racket, is faster than the
standard Deep Typed Racket but only when the Transient blame assignment
strategy is disabled. For language designers, this report provides valuable
hints on how to equip an existing compiler to support a Transient semantics.
For theoreticians, the negative experience with Transient blame calls for a
thorough investigation of this strategy.

  1. benjaminlgreenman@gmail.com, Brown University, USA

  2. lukas.lazarek@eecs.northwestern.edu, Northwestern University, USA

  3. chrdimo@northwestern.edu, Northwestern University, USA

  4. matthias@ccs.neu.edu, Northeastern University, USA