7.10. Equality constraints

A type context can include equality constraints of the form t1 ~ t2, which denote that the types t1 and t2 need to be the same. In the presence of type families, whether two types are equal cannot generally be decided locally. Hence, the contexts of function signatures may include equality constraints, as in the following example:

sumCollects :: (Collects c1, Collects c2, Elem c1 ~ Elem c2) => c1 -> c2 -> c2

where we require that the element type of c1 and c2 are the same. In general, the types t1 and t2 of an equality constraint may be arbitrary monotypes; i.e., they may not contain any quantifiers, independent of whether higher-rank types are otherwise enabled.

Equality constraints can also appear in class and instance contexts. The former enable a simple translation of programs using functional dependencies into programs using family synonyms instead. The general idea is to rewrite a class declaration of the form

class C a b | a -> b


class (F a ~ b) => C a b where
  type F a

That is, we represent every functional dependency (FD) a1 .. an -> b by an FD type family F a1 .. an and a superclass context equality F a1 .. an ~ b, essentially giving a name to the functional dependency. In class instances, we define the type instances of FD families in accordance with the class head. Method signatures are not affected by that process.