Monotonic References for Gradual Typing

Jeremy G. Siek, Michael M. Vitousek

We describe an alternative approach to handling mutable references (aka. pointers) within a gradually typed language that has different efficiency characteristics than the prior approach of Herman et al. [2010]. In particular, we reduce the costs of reading and writing through references in statically typed regions of code. We reduce the costs to be the same as they would in a statically typed language, that is, simply the cost of a load or store instruction (for primitive data types). This reduction in cost is especially important for programmers who would like to use gradual typing to facilitate transitioning from a dynamically-typed prototype of an algorithm to a statically-typed, high-performance implementation. The programmers we have in mind are scientists and engineers who currently prototype in Matlab and then manually translate their algorithms into Fortran. We present the static and dynamic semantics for mutable references and a mechanized proof of type safety using the Isabelle proof assistant.

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