3. Language Reference

This reference seeks to describe every construct in the Futhark language. It is not presented in a tutorial fashion, but rather intended for quick lookup and documentation of subtleties. For this reason, it is not written in a bottom-up manner, and some concepts may be used before they are fully defined. It is a good idea to have a basic grasp of Futhark (or some other functional programming language) before reading this reference. An ambiguous grammar is given for the full language. The text describes how ambiguities are resolved in practice (for example by applying rules of operator precedence).

This reference describes only the language itself. Documentation for the basis library is available elsewhere.

3.1. Identifiers and Keywords

id        ::=  letter (letter | "_" | "'")* | "_" id
quals     ::=  (id ".")+
qualid    ::=  id | quals id
binop     ::=  opstartchar opchar*
qualbinop ::=  binop | quals binop | "`" qualid "`"
fieldid   ::=  decimal | id

Many things in Futhark are named. When we are defining something, we give it an unqualified name (id). When referencing something inside a module, we use a qualified name (qualid). The fields of a record are named with fieldid. Note that a fieldid can be a decimal number. Futhark has three distinct name spaces: terms, module types, and types. Modules (including parametric modules) and values both share the term namespace.

3.2. Primitive Types and Values

literal ::=  intnumber | floatnumber | "true" | "false"

Boolean literals are written true and false. The primitive types in Futhark are the signed integer types i8, i16, i32, i64, the unsigned integer types u8, u16, u32, u64, the floating-point types f32, f64, as well as bool. An f32 is always a single-precision float and a f64 is a double-precision float.

int_type   ::=  "i8" | "i16" | "i32" | "i64" | "u8" | "u16" | "u32" | "u64"
float_type ::=  "f8" | "f16" | "f32" | "f64"

Numeric literals can be suffixed with their intended type. For example 42i8 is of type i8, and 1337e2f64 is of type f64. If no suffix is given, the type of the literal will be inferred based on its use. If the use is not constrained, integral literals will be assigned type i32, and decimal literals type f64. Hexadecimal literals are supported by prefixing with 0x, and binary literals by prefixing with 0b.

Floats can also be written in hexadecimal format such as 0x1.fp3, instead of the usual decimal notation. Here, 0x1.f evaluates to 1 15/16 and the p3 multiplies it by 2^3 = 8.

intnumber   ::=  (decimal | hexadecimal | binary) [int_type]
decimal     ::=  decdigit (decdigit |"_")*
hexadecimal ::=  0 ("x" | "X") hexdigit (hexdigit |"_")*
binary      ::=  0 ("b" | "B") bindigit (bindigit | "_")*
floatnumber      ::=  (pointfloat | exponentfloat) [float_type]
pointfloat       ::=  [intpart] fraction
exponentfloat    ::=  (intpart | pointfloat) exponent
hexadecimalfloat ::=  0 ("x" | "X") hexintpart hexfraction ("p"|"P") ["+" | "-"] decdigit+
intpart          ::=  decdigit (decdigit |"_")*
fraction         ::=  "." decdigit (decdigit |"_")*
hexintpart       ::=  hexdigit (hexdigit | "_")*
hexfraction      ::=  "." hexdigit (hexdigit |"_")*
exponent         ::=  ("e" | "E") ["+" | "-"] decdigit+
decdigit ::=  "0"..."9"
hexdigit ::=  decdigit | "a"..."f" | "A"..."F"
bindigit ::=  "0" | "1"

3.2.1. Compound Types and Values

All primitive values can be combined in tuples and arrays. A tuple value or type is written as a sequence of comma-separated values or types enclosed in parentheses. For example, (0, 1) is a tuple value of type (i32,i32). The elements of a tuple need not have the same type – the value (false, 1, 2.0) is of type (bool, i32, f64). A tuple element can also be another tuple, as in ((1,2),(3,4)), which is of type ((i32,i32),(i32,i32)). A tuple cannot have just one element, but empty tuples are permitted, although they are not very useful-these are written () and are of type ().

type          ::=  qualid | array_type | tuple_type
                   | record_type | function_type | type type_arg | "*" type
array_type    ::=  "[" [dim] "]" type
tuple_type    ::=  "(" ")" | "(" type ("[" "," type "]")* ")"
record_type   ::=  "{" "}" | "{" fieldid ":" type ("," fieldid ":" type)* "}"
function_type ::=  param_type "->" type
param_type    ::=  type | "(" id ":" type ")"
type_arg      ::=  "[" [dim] "]" | type
dim           ::=  qualid | decimal

An array value is written as a sequence of zero or more comma-separated values enclosed in square brackets: [1,2,3]. An array type is written as [d]t, where t is the element type of the array, and d is an integer indicating the size. We typically elide d, in which case the size will be inferred. As an example, an array of three integers could be written as [1,2,3], and has type [3]i32. An empty array is written as [], and its type is inferred from its use. When writing Futhark values for such uses as futhark test (but not when writing programs), the syntax empty(t) can be used to denote an empty array with row type t.

Multi-dimensional arrays are supported in Futhark, but they must be regular, meaning that all inner arrays must have the same shape. For example, [[1,2], [3,4], [5,6]] is a valid array of type [3][2]i32, but [[1,2], [3,4,5], [6,7]] is not, because there we cannot come up with integers m and n such that [m][n]i32 describes the array. The restriction to regular arrays is rooted in low-level concerns about efficient compilation. However, we can understand it in language terms by the inability to write a type with consistent dimension sizes for an irregular array value. In a Futhark program, all array values, including intermediate (unnamed) arrays, must be typeable.

Records are mappings from field names to values, with the field names known statically. A tuple behaves in all respects like a record with numeric field names, and vice versa. It is an error for a record type to name the same field twice.

A parametric type abbreviation can be applied by juxtaposing its name and its arguments. The application must provide as many arguments as the type abbreviation has parameters - partial application is presently not allowed. See Type Abbreviations for further details.

Functions are classified via function types, but they are not fully first class. See Higher-order functions for the details.

stringlit  ::=  '"' stringchar '"'
stringchar ::=  <any source character except "\" or newline or quotes>

String literals are supported, but only as syntactic sugar for arrays of i32 values. There is no character type in Futhark.

3.3. Declarations

A Futhark file or module consists of a sequence of declarations. Each declaration is processed in order, and a declaration can only refer to names bound by preceding declarations.

dec ::=    fun_bind | val_bind | type_bind | mod_bind | mod_type_bind
         | "open" mod_exp
         | "import" stringlit
         | "local" dec

The open declaration brings names defined in another module into scope (see also Module System). For the meaning of import, see Referring to Other Files. If a declaration is prefixed with local, whatever names it defines will not be visible outside the current module. In particular local open is used to bring names from another module into scope, without making those names available to users of the module being defined. In most cases, using module type ascription is a better idea.

3.3.1. Declaring Functions and Values

fun_bind ::=    ("let" | "entry") (id | "(" binop ")") type_param* pat+ [":" type] "=" exp
              | ("let" | "entry") pat binop pat [":" type] "=" exp
val_bind ::=  "let" id [":" type] "=" exp

Functions and values must be defined before they are used. A function declaration must specify the name, parameters, and body of the function:

let name params...: rettype = body

Hindley-Milner-style type inference is supported. A parameter may be given a type with the notation (name: type). Functions may not be recursive. Optionally, the programmer may put shape declarations in the return type and parameter types; see Shape Declarations. A function can be polymorphic by using type parameters, in the same way as for Type Abbreviations:

let reverse [n] 't (xs: [n]t): [n]t = xs[::-1]

Shape and type parameters are not passed explicitly when calling function, but are automatically derived.

To simplify the handling of in-inplace updates (see In-place Updates), the value returned by a function may not alias any global variables.

3.3.2. User-Defined Operators

Infix operators are defined much like functions:

let (p1: t1) op (p2: t2): rt = ...

For example:

let (a:i32,b:i32) +^ (c:i32,d:i32) = (a+c, b+d)

We can also define operators by enclosing the operator name in parentheses and suffixing the parameters, as an ordinary function:

let (+^) (a:i32,b:i32) (c:i32,d:i32) = (a+c, b+d)

This is necessary when defining a polymorphic operator.

A valid operator name is a non-empty sequence of characters chosen from the string "+-*/%=!><&^". The fixity of an operator is determined by its first characters, which must correspond to a built-in operator. Thus, +^ binds like +, whilst *^ binds like *. The longest such prefix is used to determine fixity, so >>= binds like >>, not like >.

It is not permitted to define operators with the names && or || (although these as prefixes are accepted). This is because a user-defined version of these operators would not be short-circuiting. User-defined operators behave exactly like ordinary functions, except for bbeing infix.

A built-in operator can be shadowed (i.e. a new + can be defined). This will result in the built-in polymorphic operator becoming inaccessible, except through the intrinsics module.

An infix operator can also be defined with prefix notation, like an ordinary function, by enclosing it in parentheses:

let (+) (x: i32) (y: i32) = x - y

This is necessary when defining operators that take type or shape parameters.

3.3.3. Entry Points

Apart from declaring a function with the keyword let, it can also be declared with entry. When the Futhark program is compiled any top-level function declared with entry will be exposed as an entry point. If the Futhark program has been compiled as a library, these are the functions that will be exposed. If compiled as an executable, you can use the --entry-point command line option of the generated executable to select the entry point you wish to run.

Any top-level function named main will always be considered an entry point, whether it is declared with entry or not.

3.3.4. Value Declarations

A named value/constant can be declared as follows:

let name: type = definition

The definition can be an arbitrary expression, including function calls and other values, although they must be in scope before the value is defined.

3.3.5. Shape Declarations

Whenever a pattern occurs (in let, loop, and function parameters), as well as in return types, shape declarations may be used to express invariants about the shapes of arrays that are accepted or produced by the function. For example:

let f [n] (a: [n]i32) (b: [n]i32): [n]i32 =
  map (+) a b

We use a shape parameter, [n], to explicitly quantify the names of shapes. The [n] parameter need not be explicitly passed when calling f. Rather, its value is implicitly deduced from the arguments passed for the value parameters. Any size parameter must be used in a value parameter. This is an error:

let f [n] (x: i32) = n

A shape declaration can also be an integer constant (with no suffix). The dimension names bound can be used as ordinary variables within the scope of the parameters. If a function is called with arguments, or returns a value, that does not fulfill the shape constraints, the program will fail with a runtime error. Likewise, if a pattern with shape declarations is attempted bound to a value that does not fulfill the invariants, the program will fail with a runtime error. For example, this will fail:

let x: [3]i32 = iota 2

While this will succeed and bind n to 2:

let [n] x: [n]i32 = iota 2

3.3.6. Type Abbreviations

type_bind  ::=  "type" id type_param* "=" type
type_param ::=  "[" id "]" | "'" id | "'^" id

Type abbreviations function as shorthands for the purpose of documentation or brevity. After a type binding type t1 = t2, the name t1 can be used as a shorthand for the type t2. Type abbreviations do not create distinct types: the types t1 and t2 are entirely interchangeable.

A type abbreviation can have zero or more parameters. A type parameter enclosed with square brackets is a shape parameter, and can be used in the definition as an array dimension size, or as a dimension argument to other type abbreviations. When passing an argument for a shape parameter, it must be enclosed in square brackets. Example:

type two_intvecs [n] = ([n]i32, [n]i32)

let x: two_intvecs [2] = (iota 2, replicate 2 0)

Shape parameters work much like shape declarations for arrays. Like shape declarations, they can be elided via square brackets containing nothing.

A type parameter prefixed with a single quote is a type parameter. It is in scope as a type in the definition of the type abbreviation. Whenever the type abbreviation is used in a type expression, a type argument must be passed for the parameter. Type arguments need not be prefixed with single quotes:

type two_vecs [n] 't = ([n]t, [n]t)
type two_intvecs [n] = two_vecs [n] i32
let x: two_vecs [2] i32 = (iota 2, replicate 2 0)

A type parameter prefixed with '^ is a lifted type parameter. These may be instantiated with types that may be functions. On the other hand, values of such types are subject to the same restrictions as function types (cannot be put in an arrays, returned from if, or used as a loop parameter; see Higher-order functions).

3.4. Expressions

Expressions are the basic construct of any Futhark program. An expression has a statically determined type, and produces a value at runtime. Futhark is an eager/strict language (“call by value”).

The basic elements of expressions are called atoms, for example literals and variables, but also more complicated forms.

atom     ::=    literal
              | qualid ("." fieldid)*
              | stringlit
              | "(" ")"
              | "(" exp ")" ("." fieldid)*
              | "(" exp ("," exp)* ")"
              | "{" "}"
              | "{" field ("," field)* "}"
              | qualid "[" index ("," index)* "]"
              | "(" exp ")" "[" index ("," index)* "]"
              | quals "." "(" exp ")"
              | "[" exp ("," exp)* "]"
              | "[" exp [".." exp] "..." exp "]"
              | "(" qualbinop ")"
              | "(" exp qualbinop ")"
              | "(" qualbinop exp ")"
              | "(" ( "." field )+ ")"
              | "(" "." "[" index ("," index)* "]" ")"
exp      ::=    atom
              | exp qualbinop exp
              | exp exp
              | exp ":" type
              | exp [ ".." exp ] "..." exp
              | exp [ ".." exp ] "..<" exp
              | exp [ ".." exp ] "..>" exp
              | "if" exp "then" exp "else" exp
              | "let" type_param* pat "=" exp "in" exp
              | "let" id "[" index ("," index)* "]" "=" exp "in" exp
              | "let" id type_param* pat+ [":" type] "=" exp "in" exp
              | "(" "\" type_param* pat+ [":" type] "->" exp ")"
              | "loop" type_param* pat [("=" exp)] loopform "do" exp
              | "unsafe" exp
              | "assert" atom atom
              | exp "with" "[" index ("," index)* "]" "=" exp
              | exp "with" fieldid ("." fieldid)* "=" exp
field    ::=    fieldid "=" exp
              | id
pat      ::=    id
              |  "_"
              | "(" ")"
              | "(" pat ")"
              | "(" pat ("," pat)+ ")"
              | "{" "}"
              | "{" fieldid ["=" pat] ["," fieldid ["=" pat]] "}"
              | pat ":" type
loopform ::=    "for" id "<" exp
              | "for" pat "in" exp
              | "while" exp
index    ::=    exp [":" [exp]] [":" [exp]]
              | [exp] ":" exp [":" [exp]]
              | [exp] [":" exp] ":" [exp]
nat_int  ::=  decdigit+

Some of the built-in expression forms have parallel semantics, but it is not guaranteed that the the parallel constructs in Futhark are evaluated in parallel, especially if they are nested in complicated ways. Their purpose is to give the compiler as much freedom and information is possible, in order to enable it to maximise the efficiency of the generated code.

3.4.1. Resolving Ambiguities

The above grammar contains some ambiguities, which in the concrete implementation is resolved via a combination of lexer and grammar transformations. For ease of understanding, they are presented here in natural text.

  • An expression x.y may either be a reference to the name y in the module x, or the field y in the record x. Modules and values occupy the same name space, so this is disambiguated by the type of x.

  • A type ascription (exp : type) cannot appear as an array index, as it conflicts with the syntax for slicing.

  • In f [x], there is am ambiguity between indexing the array f at position x, or calling the function f with the singleton array x. We resolve this the following way:

    • If there is a space between f and the opening bracket, it is treated as a function application.
    • Otherwise, it is an array index operation.
  • An expression (-x) is parsed as the variable x negated and enclosed in parentheses, rather than an operator section partially applying the infix operator -.

  • The following table describes the precedence and associativity of infix operators. All operators in the same row have the same precedence. The rows are listed in increasing order of precedence. Note that not all operators listed here are used in expressions; nevertheless, they are still used for resolving ambiguities.

    Associativity Operators
    left ,
    left :
    left ||
    left &&
    left <= >= > < == !=
    left & ^ |
    left << >>
    left + -
    left * / % // %%
    left |>
    right <|
    right ->
    left juxtaposition

3.4.2. Semantics of Simple Expressions literal

Evaluates to itself. qualid

A variable name; evaluates to its value in the current environment. stringlit

Evaluates to an array of type []i32 that contains the code points of the characters as integers. ()

Evaluates to an empty tuple. ( e )

Evaluates to the result of e. (e1, e2, ..., eN)

Evaluates to a tuple containing N values. Equivalent to the record literal {1=e1, 2=e2, ..., N=eN}. {f1, f2, ..., fN}

A record expression consists of a comma-separated sequence of field expressions. Each field expression defines the value of a field in the record. A field expression can take one of two forms:

f = e: defines a field with the name f and the value resulting from evaluating e.

f: defines a field with the name f and the value of the variable f in scope.

Each field may only be defined once. a[i]

Return the element at the given position in the array. The index may be a comma-separated list of indexes instead of just a single index. If the number of indices given is less than the rank of the array, an array is returned.

The array a must be a variable name or a parenthesized expression. Futhermore, there may not be a space between a and the opening bracket. This disambiguates the array indexing a[i], from a [i], which is a function call with a literal array. a[i:j:s]

Return a slice of the array a from index i to j, the former inclusive and the latter exclusive, taking every s-th element. The s parameter may not be zero. If s is negative, it means to start at i and descend by steps of size s to j (not inclusive).

It is generally a bad idea for s to be non-constant. Slicing of multiple dimensions can be done by separating with commas, and may be intermixed freely with indexing.

If s is elided it defaults to 1. If i or j is elided, their value depends on the sign of s. If s is positive, i become 0 and j become the length of the array. If s is negative, i becomes the length of the array minus one, and j becomes minus one. This means that a[::-1] is the reverse of the array a. [x, y, z]

Create an array containing the indicated elements. Each element must have the same type and shape. x..y...z

Construct an integer array whose first element is x and which proceeds stride of y-x until reaching z (inclusive). The ..y part can be elided in which case a stride of 1 is used. The stride may not be zero. An empty array is returned in cases where z would never be reached or x and y are the same value. x..y..<z

Construct an integer array whose first elements is x, and which proceeds upwards with a stride of y until reaching z (exclusive). The ..y part can be elided in which case a stride of 1 is used. An empty array is returned in cases where z would never be reached or x and y are the same value. x..y..>z

Construct an integer array whose first elements is x, and which proceeds downwards with a stride of y until reaching z (exclusive). The ..y part can be elided in which case a stride of -1 is used. An empty array is returned in cases where z would never be reached or x and y are the same value. e.f

Access field f of the expression e, which must be a record or tuple. m.(e)

Evaluate the expression e with the module m locally opened, as if by open. This can make some expressions easier to read and write, without polluting the global scope with a declaration-level open. x binop y

Apply an operator to x and y. Operators are functions like any other, and can be user-defined. Futhark pre-defines certain “magical” overloaded operators that work on many different types. Overloaded functions cannot be defined by the user. Both operands must have the same type. The predefined operators and their semantics are:


Power operator, defined for all numeric types.

//, %%

Division and remainder on integers, with rounding towards zero.

*, /, %, +, -

The usual arithmetic operators, defined for all numeric types. Note that / and % rounds towards negative infinity when used on integers - this is different from in C.

^, &, |, >>, <<

Bitwise operators, respectively bitwise xor, and, or, arithmetic shift right and left, and logical shift right. Shift amounts must be non-negative and the operands must be integers. Note that, unlike in C, bitwise operators have higher priority than arithmetic operators. This means that x & y == z is understood as (x & y) == z, rather than x & (y == z) as it would in C. Note that the latter is a type error in Futhark anyhow.

==, !=

Compare any two values of builtin or compound type for equality.

<, <=. >, >=

Company any two values of numeric type for equality. x && y

Short-circuiting logical conjunction; both operands must be of type bool. x || y

Short-circuiting logical disjunction; both operands must be of type bool. f x

Apply the function f to the argument x. e : t

Annotate that e is expected to be of type t, failing with a type error if it is not. If t is an array with shape declarations, the correctness of the shape declarations is checked at run-time.

Due to ambiguities, this syntactic form cannot appear as an array index expression unless it is first enclosed in parentheses. However, as an array index must always be of type i32, there is never a reason to put an explicit type ascription there. ! x

Logical negation of x, which must be of type bool. - x

Numerical negation of x, which must be of numeric type. ~ x

Bitwise negation of x, which must be of integral type. unsafe e

Elide safety checks and assertions (such as bounds checking) that occur during execution of e. This is useful if the compiler is otherwise unable to avoid bounds checks (e.g. when using indirect indexes), but you really do not want them there. Make very sure that the code is correct; eliding such checks can lead to memory corruption. assert cond e

Terminate execution with an error if cond evaluates to false, otherwise produce the result of evaluating e. Unless e produces a value that is used subsequently (it can just be a variable), dead code elimination may remove the assertion. a with [i] = e

Return a, but with the element at position i changed to contain the result of evaluating e. Consumes a. r with f = e

Return the record r, but with field f changed to have value e. The type of the field must remain unchanged. if c then a else b

If c evaluates to true, evaluate a, else evaluate b.

3.4.3. Binding Expressions let pat = e in body

Evaluate e and bind the result to the pattern pat while evaluating body. The in keyword is optional if body is a let expression. See also Shape Declarations. let a[i] = v in body

Write v to a[i] and evaluate body. The given index need not be complete and can also be a slice, but in these cases, the value of v must be an array of the proper size. This notation is Syntactic sugar for let a = a with [i] = v in a. let f params... = e in body

Bind f to a function with the given parameters and definition (e) and evaluate body. The function will be treated as aliasing any free variables in e. The function is not in scope of itself, and hence cannot be recursive. See also Shape Declarations. loop pat = initial for x in a do loopbody

  1. Bind pat to the initial values given in initial.
  2. For each element x in a, evaluate loopbody and rebind pat to the result of the evaluation.
  3. Return the final value of pat.

The = initial can be left out, in which case initial values for the pattern are taken from equivalently named variables in the environment. I.e., loop (x) = ... is equivalent to loop (x = x) = ....

See also Shape Declarations. loop pat = initial for x < n do loopbody

Equivalent to loop (pat = initial) for x in [0..1..<n] do loopbody. loop pat = initial = while cond do loopbody

  1. Bind pat to the initial values given in initial.
  2. If cond evaluates to true, bind pat to the result of evaluating loopbody, and repeat the step.
  3. Return the final value of pat.

See also Shape Declarations.

3.4.4. Function Expressions \x y z: t -> e

Produces an anonymous function taking parameters x, y, and z, returns type t, and whose body is e. (binop)

An operator section that is equivalent to \x y -> x *binop* y. (x binop)

An operator section that is equivalent to \y -> x *binop* y. (binop y)

An operator section that is equivalent to \x -> x *binop* y. (.a.b.c)

An operator section that is equivalent to \x -> x.a.b.c. (.[i,j])

An operator section that is equivalent to \x -> x[i,j].

3.5. Higher-order functions

At a high level, Futhark functions are values, and can be used as any other value. However, to ensure that the compiler is able to compile the higher-order functions efficiently via defunctionalisation, certain type-driven restrictions exist on how functions can be used. These also apply to any record or tuple containing a function (a functional type):.

  • Arrays of functions are not permitted.
  • A function cannot be returned from an if expression.
  • A loop parameter cannot be a function.

Further, type parameters are divided into non-lifted (bound with an apostrophe, e.g. 't), and lifted ('^t). Only lifted type parameters may be instantiated with a functional type. Within a function, a lifted type parameter is treated as a functional type. All abstract types declared in modules (see Module System) are considered non-lifted, and may not be functional.

See also In-place updates for details on how uniqueness types interact with higher-order functions.

3.6. Type Inference

Futhark supports Hindley-Milner-style type inference, so in many cases explicit type annotations can be left off. Record field projection cannot in isolation be fully inferred, and may need type annotations where their inputs are bound. Further, unique types (see In-place updates) must be explicitly annotated.

3.7. In-place Updates

In-place updates do not provide observable side effects, but they do provide a way to efficiently update an array in-place, with the guarantee that the cost is proportional to the size of the value(s) being written, not the size of the full array.

The a with [i] = v language construct, and derived forms, performs an in-place update. The compiler verifies that the original array (a) is not used on any execution path following the in-place update. This involves also checking that no alias of a is used. Generally, most language constructs produce new arrays, but some (slicing) create arrays that alias their input arrays.

When defining a function parameter or return type, we can mark it as unique by prefixing it with an asterisk. For example:

let modify (a: *[]i32) (i: i32) (x: i32): *[]i32 =
  a with [i] = a[i] + x

For bulk in-place updates with multiple values, use the scatter function in the basis library. In the parameter declaration a: *[i32], the asterisk means that the function modify has been given “ownership” of the array a, meaning that any caller of modify will never reference array a after the call again. This allows the with expression to perform an in-place update.

After a call modify a i x, neither a or any variable that aliases a may be used on any following execution path.

3.7.1. Alias Analysis

The rules used by the Futhark compiler to determine aliasing are intuitive in the intra-procedural case. Aliases are associated with entire arrays. Aliases of a record are tuple are tracked for each element, not for the record or tuple itself. Most constructs produce fresh arrays, with no aliases. The main exceptions are if, loop, function calls, and variable literals.

  • After a binding let a = b, that simply assigns a new name to an existing variable, the variable a aliases b. Similarly for record projections and patterns.
  • The result of an if aliases the union of the aliases of the components.
  • The result of a loop aliases the initial values, as well as any aliases that the merge parameters may assume at the end of an iteration, computed to a fixed point.
  • The aliases of a value returned from a function is the most interesting case, and depends on whether the return value is declared unique (with an asterisk *) or not. If it is declared unique, then it has no aliases. Otherwise, it aliases all arguments passed for non-unique parameters.

3.7.2. In-place Updates and Higher-Order Functions

Uniqueness typing generally interacts poorly with higher-order functions. The issue is that we cannot control how many times a function argument is applied, or to what, so it is not safe to pass a function that consumes its argument. The following two conservative rules govern the interaction between uniqueness types and higher-order functions:

  1. In the expression let p = e1 in ..., if any in-place update takes place in the expression e1, the value bound by p must not be or contain a function.
  2. A function that consumes one of its arguments may not be passed as a higher-order argument to another function.

3.8. Module System

mod_bind      ::=  "module" id mod_param* "=" [":" mod_type_exp] "=" mod_exp
mod_param     ::=  "(" id ":" mod_type_exp ")"
mod_type_bind ::=  "module" "type" id type_param* "=" mod_type_exp

Futhark supports an ML-style higher-order module system. Modules can contain types, functions, and other modules and module types. Module types are used to classify the contents of modules, and parametric modules are used to abstract over modules (essentially module-level functions). In Standard ML, modules, module types and parametric modules are called structs, signatures, and functors, respectively. Module names exist in the same name space as values, but module types are their own name space.

Named modules are declared as:

module name = module expression

A named module type is defined as:

module type name = module type expression

Where a module expression can be the name of another module, an application of a parametric module, or a sequence of declarations enclosed in curly braces:

module Vec3 = {
  type t = ( f32 , f32 , f32 )
  let add(a: t) (b: t): t =
    let (a1, a2, a3) = a in
    let (b1, b2, b3) = b in
    (a1 + b1, a2 + b2 , a3 + b3)

module AlsoVec3 = Vec3

Functions and types within modules can be accessed using dot notation:

type vector = Vec3.t
let double(v: vector): vector = Vec3.add v v

We can also use open Vec3 to bring the names defined by Vec3 into the current scope. Multiple modules can be opened simultaneously by separating their names with spaces. In case several modules define the same names, the ones mentioned last take precedence. The first argument to open may be a full module expression.

Named module types are defined as:

module type ModuleTypeName = module type expression

A module type expression can be the name of another module type, or a sequence of specifications, or specs, enclosed in curly braces. A spec can be a value spec, indicating the presence of a function or value, an abstract type spec, or a type abbreviation spec. For example:

module type Addable = {
  type t                 -- abstract type spec
  type two_ts = (t,t)    -- type abbreviation spec
  val add: t -> t -> t   -- value spec

This module type specifies the presence of an abstract type t, as well as a function operating on values of type t. We can use module type ascription to restrict a module to what is exposed by some module type:

module AbstractVec = Vec3 : Addable

The definition of AbstractVec.t is now hidden. In fact, with this module type, we can neither construct values of type AbstractVec.T or convert them to anything else, making this a rather useless use of abstraction. As a derived form, we can write module M: S = e to mean module M = e : S.

Parametric modules allow us to write definitions that abstract over modules. For example:

module Times = \(M: Addable) -> {
  let times (x: M.t) (k: int): M.t =
    loop (x' = x) for i < k do
      T.add x' x

We can instantiate Times with any module that fulfills the module type Addable and get back a module that defines a function times:

module Vec3Times = Times Vec3

Now Vec3Times.times is a function of type Vec3.t -> int -> Vec3.t. As a derived form, we can write module M p = e to mean module M = \p -> e.

3.8.1. Module Expressions

mod_exp ::=    qualid
             | mod_exp ":" mod_type_exp
             | "\" "(" id ":" mod_type_exp ")" [":" mod_type_exp] "->" mod_exp
             | mod_exp mod_exp
             | "(" mod_exp ")"
             | "{" dec* "}"
             | "import" stringlit

A module expression produces a module. Modules are collections of bindings produced by declarations (dec). In particular, a module may contain other modules or module types. qualid

Evaluates to the module of the given name. (mod_exp)

Evaluates to mod_exp. mod_exp : mod_type_exp

Module ascription evaluates the module expression and the module type expression, verifies that the module implements the module type, then returns a module that exposes only the functionality described by the module type. This is how internal details of a module can be hidden. \(p: mt1): mt2 -> e

Constructs a parametric module (a function at the module level) that accepts a parameter of module type mt1 and returns a module of type mt2. The latter is optional, but the parameter type is not. e1 e2

Apply the parametric module m1 to the module m2. { decs }

Returns a module that contains the given definitions. The resulting module defines any name defined by any declaration that is not local, in particular including names made available via open. import "foo"

Returns a module that contains the definitions of the file "foo" relative to the current file. See Referring to Other Files.

3.8.2. Module Type Expressions

mod_type_exp ::=    qualid
                  | "{" spec* "}"
                  | mod_type_exp "with" qualid type_param* "=" type
                  | "(" mod_type_exp ")"
                  | "(" id ":" mod_type_exp ")" "->" mod_type_exp
                  | mod_type_exp "->" mod_type_exp
spec      ::=    "val" id type_param* ":" spec_type
               | "val" binop type_param* ":" spec_type
               | "type" id type_param* "=" type
               | "type" ["^"] id type_param*
               | "module" id ":" mod_type_exp
               | "include" mod_type_exp
spec_type ::=  type | type "->" spec_type

Module types classify modules, with the only (unimportant) difference in expressivity being that modules can contain module types, but module types cannot specify that a module must contain a specific module types. They can specify of course that a module contains a submodule of a specific module type.

3.9. Referring to Other Files

You can refer to external files in a Futhark file like this:

import "module"

The above will include all top-level definitions from module.fut is and make them available in the current Futhark program. The .fut extension is implied.

You can also include files from subdirectories:

import "path/to/a/file"

The above will include the file path/to/a/file.fut relative to the including file. When importing a nonlocal file (such as the basis library), the path must begin with a forward slash.

Qualified imports are also possible, where a module is created for the file:

module M = import "module"

In fact, a plain import "module" is equivalent to:

local open import "module"