Functional Translation of a Calculus of Capabilities


Reasoning about imperative programs requires the ability to track aliasing and ownership properties. We present a type system that provides this ability, by using regions, capabilities, and singleton types. It is designed for a high-level calculus with higher-order functions, algebraic data structures, and references (mutable memory cells). The type system has polymorphism, and does not require a value restriction, because capabilities act as explicit store typings.

We exhibit a type-directed, type-preserving and meaningpreserving translation of this imperative calculus into a pure calculus. Like the monadic translation, this is a store-passing translation. Here, however, the store is partitioned into multiple fragments, which are threaded through a computation only if they are relevant to it. Furthermore, the decomposition of the store into fragments can evolve dynamically to reflect ownership transfers.

The translation offers deep insight about the inner workings and soundness of the type system. If coupled with a semantic model of its target calculus, it leads to a semantic model of its imperative source calculus. Furthermore, it provides a foundation for our long-term objective of designing a system for specifying and certifying imperative programs with dynamic memory allocation.


Arthur Charguéraud and François Pottier
ICFP: International Conference on Functional Programming, September 2008